To Airbnb or not to be? Ludington discusses amending short-term rental restrictions

March 1, 2019

Short-term rentals have gained popularity in many vacation communities through websites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, which collect fees for connecting property owners with renters. These let homeowners rent out rooms in their houses — or their entire houses — to vacationers looking to stay somewhere other than in a hotel or other traditional rental units.

Officially, Ludington’s City Code, which applies everywhere within city limits, restricts rental stays of less than 28 days to only be allowed in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels and condos.

Landlord Ryan Reed is asking the city to amend the existing ordinance in order to make the Downtown Development Authority district exempt from it, so that downtown property owners could short-term rent their spaces without those restrictions.

Reed owns the historic, former Odd Fellows Lodge at 115 W. Ludington Ave. The building houses My Sister’s Closet in the ground floor retail space, and two studio apartments on the upper floor. Reed lives in one of the apartments, and in recent years he has rented the other to a long-term tenant, although she isn’t renting currently. When he doesn’t have a tenant there, he wants to be able to rent that spare apartment on a short-term basis using Airbnb.

Reed’s property is ineligible to become a boutique hotel because he doesn’t have the minimum amount of rental units required — four — and converting his property into a condo isn’t financially feasible for him.

“All I’m asking as a member of our community is an equal opportunity to participate in the vacation rental economy in town,” Reed told the Daily News.

Reed has been in conversations with city officials since August about the short-term rentals issue, and most recently, he presented his case during the Ludington Building and Licenses Committee meeting Thursday.

In preparation for the meeting, Reed had gathered 41 signatures for a petition to amend the ordinance to allow for short-term rentals. Most of the signers were business owners or managers and property owners downtown, he said. The petition they signed stated that the restrictions on short-term rentals are preventing their businesses from reaching full economic potential.

“It seems wildly preposterous that this ordinance, the way that it exists, is in any way, shape or form ... serving the interests of all of these businesses,” Reed told the committee. “The more people that we can attract to our town, that we can lay out the welcome mat for, the better.”

To read the full story, check out the print or E-edition of Friday’s Ludington Daily News.