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New Airbnb rules move forward in Traverse City

David Cassleman

Updated June 6, 3:45 p.m. with more details on the proposal. 

More people in Traverse City would be allowed to rent out rooms on websites like Airbnb under a proposal approved by the city planning commission Tuesday night. 

Short term vacation rentals – where you rent out your entire home – are currently banned in most of Traverse City. But the city does allow a limited number of what are called tourist homes. Those are residences where people can rent out rooms to guests as long as the homeowner is present during the stay. 

Tourist homes are limited to one within a thousand-foot radius. There are currently 21 licensed tourist homes in the city, according to city planning staff.

Planning commissioners approved a measure that would change the tourist home rules and allow more of them. 

The change would create two different classifications for tourist homes. "High intensity" tourist homes would operate with many of the same rules that govern tourist homes today. They would be limited to one within a thousand-foot radius. 

"Low intensity" tourist homes would have no radius rules limiting how many can operate in the city. However, they would be limited to hosting guests for 84 'guest nights' per year. For example, if you had two people stay at your home for one night, it would equal two guest nights. 

Traverse City resident Gary Schilkey spoke in favor of loosening the rules. 

“We’re not talking about opening the floodgates for a bunch of troublemakers to come into our neighborhoods and tear the place apart,” Schilkey says. “We’re talking about sharing our homes with selected individuals that we vetted through references.”

 Opponents say allowing more tourist homes could drive up home prices and lead to noisy neighborhoods.

 Traverse City resident Kent Anderson warned planning commissioners against the changes.

 “I think you need to follow the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm,” Anderson said. “So be very careful about how much you liberalize these rules.”

City commissioners have the final say on whether the measure becomes law.