Some speak out in favor of short-term rental bill

NOW: Some speak out in favor of short-term rental bill

NEW BUFFALO, Mich. — A bill is moving through Michigan’s legislature about short-term rentals, and after over a dozen municipalities and the Berrien County Board of Commissioners passed resolutions opposing it, some New Buffalo residents are speaking about why they think the bill is a needed change. 

House Bill 4722 would prevent local governments from using zoning to keep owners from renting their property by classifying short-term rentals as a residential use, not commercial. 

“A city can’t just decide rentals can be here and no where else, because it comes back to personal property rights, just because I live in that neighborhood it doesn’t give me any more or less rights,” said Heather Gradowski, a realtor & short-term rental owner.

New Buffalo has long been a tourist town and embraced its second-home owners, but city officials say they’ve run into an problem – an influx of people buying only for the sake of renting for a profit.  

By stripping their ability to regulate rentals through zoning, it would harm the schools and economy in resort communities.  

But, the bill’s supporters in New Buffalo span from a realtor, a longtime resident a and rental owner who say it’s a property right and only enhances the city’s economic flow. 

“We’ve been a tourist driven community for 100 years, that doesn’t mean that 75% of the second-homeowners are renting, maybe 25% are and the others sit and they come there three times a year,” said Jason Milovich, owner of Blue Fish Vacation Rentals. 

And by restricting certain neighborhoods from making renting an option, over time it could hurt the tourism that’s given New Buffalo its notoriety.  

“We dreamed back in that time in the Chamber of Commerce and Realtors Association how we could bring industry in here, and then we looked and said, ‘We have an industry,’” said Dan Coffey, a New Buffalo resident. “We have a laidback, small town and we have people coming from Chicago who want to escape.”  

These residents say second-home owners also contribute more in tax revenue than primary home owners. 

However, New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said second homeowners pay additional sums to the county, state and schools, but only 25% of second homeowner taxes are invested into the city.

Humphrey said all residents pay the same 10.122 millage. 

The city has placed a moratorium on any new rental permits. Humphrey said he hopes it can be lifted by August.

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