Rock River planning commission advances vacation rental ordinance

The Rock River planning commission has approved a new vacation rental ordinance for the township at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 21 at the Rock River township hall in Chatham. The ordinance was worked on by the commission for months in the hopes of laying out a clearer groundwork for vacation rentals in the municipality.

“What this vacation rental ordinance proposal has is a lot of very good management requirements and that’s what we’ve been working on the last few months,” Planning Commission Chair Don Johnson said.

The ordinance itself has multiple new definitions based on trends in the hospitality industry like yurts. It also focuses on using a clear conditional use permit for most short term rental scenarios. According to multiple members that spoke on Monday, the planning commission was sidetracked in May on whether or not it was better to codify a larger rental ordinance to allow short term rentals as a permitted use or stay with the more common approach of a conditional use.

“A lot of this is what we had already worked on, but we got bogged down in May,” Planning Commission Member Jon Rondeau said.

While the new vacation ordinance will address many of the core issues of enforcement and permitting process, it will not automatically reinstate short term rentals in RP10. The township board held a separate vote to remove all short term rentals in the rural and largest zone by land area after work began on the overall vacation rental ordinance.

According to Rowan Bunce, the township board’s liaison to the planning commission, completing the vacation rental ordinance will provide more confidence in township procedures so RP10 short term rentals can return.

“I would be a lot more comfortable if we had an ordinance in place that governed it appropriately,” he said. “This is a great start to get short term rentals back in all our zones.”

The formal vote on the ordinance gave the planning commission’s stamp of approval for the ordinance and suggested that the township board reinstate short term rentals in RP10 again.

The planning commission also addressed going back to work on the township’s master plan now that the vacation rental ordinance has moved onto the township board and reviewed a short term rental conditional use permit along M-94.