N. Muskegon sides with upset neighbor in banning vacation rentals

North Muskegon house
The owner of a North Muskegon home shows the view from a room she rented to vacationers. (March 1, 2017()

NORTH MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — If you are visiting North Muskegon this summer, it looks like you’ll need a hotel; the city says it doesn’t want any vacation rentals, at least for now.

The issue came up after a neighbor complained about a room that was being rented out next door by Sharon Clark and her husband.

For about two years, the Clarks rented out their upstairs room to visitors from all over the world through Airbnb’s website.

That ended when the city sent a cease and desist letter following a complaint from a neighbor who felt bothered by the renters.

“We had other people walk down to the lake on our property,” said the neighbor who didn’t want to identify herself. “Three times,” she added.

The Clarks said the Airbnb guest used the neighbor’s path instead of theirs, so the neighbor complained to the city council and the council agreed: the Clarks can’t rent out a room.

The city says it’s a zoning violation because renting a room in that area is not permitted. The city defines a single family home, as a “building designed exclusively for and occupied exclusively by one family.”

“I think they’re (the city council is) not interested in the idea of vagrants,” North Muskegon City Manager Sam Janson said, though he later clarified that he meant to use the word ‘transients.’ “People that are coming and going.”

“The neighborhoods are not really designed to be a tourist city,” he added.

The city says they’ve never allowed vacation rentals in this particular neighborhood, but the Clarks disagree and are continuing to fight the decision.

Sharon Clark says with the exception of the one unhappy neighbor, she’s received nothing but positive feedback from her neighborhood.

The city has now created a subcommittee to figure out how to should address short-term rentals. The issue remains in limbo until the committee reaches a decision.