Boutique hotel change advances
The Ludington Planning Commission on Wednesday approved recommending an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance regarding boutique hotels, and the next step in order for the amendment to become policy is seeking the approval of city council.
The planning commission recommended deleting the ordinance’s current requirement that a building needs to have a minimum of four rental units to register as a boutique hotel. The maximum limit of 10 rental units for a boutique hotel would remain unchanged.
Boutique hotels are one of the few types of establishments Ludington permits to offer short-term rental stays of less than 28 days within city limits.
Approving the amendment would allow more dwellings to register as boutique hotels, but only in zoning districts where they are already permitted as a special land use — the central business, maritime commercial and old town business districts, according to Planning and Zoning Administrator Carol Ann Foote.
Another item on the planning commission’s agenda was to discuss making a recommendation to allow short-term rentals in the central business and maritime commercial districts — i.e. downtown — but that issue was addressed by the proposed boutique hotel change.
“This is a reasonable short-term solution to a specific downtown problem,” said Planning Commissioner Nick Krieger.
The planning commission also continued its discussions about potentially allowing short-term rentals in zoning districts elsewhere in the city — including in residential areas — and heard from community members both for and against the issue. Some people have been concerned about problems that might arise from having rowdy vacationers in residential neighborhoods.
Krieger and several other planning commissioners said they would be in favor of allowing short-term rentals, if they were regulated.
“I also want us to certainly move forward with an evaluation of city-wide short-term rentals and what regulations can be put in place to make sure the concerns raised ... don’t come to fruition,” Krieger said.
Foote said she is researching the rules put in place by other cities to permit and regulate short-term rentals, and she will draft a proposed ordinance for the planning commission and the Ludington Building & Licenses Committee to consider.
The planning commissioners also approved a motion stating that the zoning portion of the ordinance draft should be ready for them to consider within the next 60 days, so a decision can be made at their July 10 meeting.
The proposed ordinance that would have regulated semi-permanent structures in city or Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) rights of way — including sidewalk pianos, sculptures and other outdoor art — was deemed unnecessary by the planning commission.
The planning commission heard a recommendation from its text subcommittee to dismiss the proposed ordinance, stating that the city’s existing ordinance that regulates the display of merchandise in rights of way is sufficient to address the issue.
Like the proposed ordinance, the merchandise display rules already require at least 5 feet of open space for pedestrian passage.
Planning Commissioner Roger Starr asked, how can the merchandise display ordinance apply to sidewalk pianos?
Planning Commissioner Cory Rickett, who chairs the text subcommittee, replied that the merchandise display rules also regulate temporary seating, so it applies to sidewalk pianos because the pianos have benches.
Another member of the text subcommittee, Ray Madsen, said that after hearing from concerned residents, the planning commissioners don’t want to create an ordinance that could potentially limit the community’s creativity, such as the sidewalk piano program.
“We simply don’t want to make it more difficult for the public to be able to have some good ideas,” Madsen said.
Rickett added that they don’t want the city to have to enforce two ordinances regulating the same issue.
Krieger said the city council could always decide to specifically add sidewalk pianos as a line item in the merchandise display ordinance.