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October 14, 2004

Many oppose zoning change

Ordinance currently silent on rentals

Record-Eagle staff writer

      EASTPORT - The ongoing debate over weekly lakefront home rentals in Torch Lake Township brought a large crowd of mostly opponents to the township hall this week.
      The planning commission's public hearing Tuesday was on township supervisor Kim Schmidt's request to change zoning to explicitly allow weekly home rentals in areas zoned for single-family residences.
      The ordinance currently is silent on rentals, though they are a long-standing practice with some homes and cottages on the shores of Torch Lake and Lake Michigan in the township.
      Many audience members at Tuesday's hearing opposed the zoning change, citing problems with cottages overfilled with rowdy renters disrupting their peaceful neighborhoods.
      "People were riding their ATVs over the dunes. They were ringing a dinner bell at midnight," said township resident David Miller of renters next door to his home.
      Added resident Larry Tomlinson, "To even consider allowing unrestricted weekly rentals in our most restrictive residential area is beyond belief."
      The planning commission tabled action on the rezoning request.
      Planning commissioner Tom Stillings, who asked to speak from the audience as a township resident, voiced support for adding weekly rental language to township zoning.
      "This is not a change in land use. Nobody is rezoning anything," he said. "What we are doing is clarifying what has always been allowed in the R-1 district."
      Stillings said he "detected a bigotry" among audience members.
      "We've created this new underclass of renters," he said. "It's what people do; it's not who they are. It's how people behave."
      Audience member Virginia Mouch said the proposed ordinance change potentially affected all people living in the township's single-family zoning district. She said the planning commission's hearing was improper because all affected property owners - everyone in R-1, she said - were not notified by the township.
      The planning commission's vote is advisory to the township board, which ultimately would decide whether to enact the zoning change. Input from the Antrim County planning commission also will be sought prior to a township board vote.

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