Uncategorized April 4, 2023

East Bay Township Updates: Vacation Rentals, Police Cameras, Fire Station Expansion

By Beth Milligan | April 3, 2023
East Bay Township trustees will hold a special meeting Wednesday to discuss new short-term rental rules, which could then be officially introduced at an upcoming meeting and adopted. Trustees are working to get the new rules in place ahead of a June 22 expiration of a moratorium on any new vacation rental licenses being issued. In other East Bay news, trustees voted recently to install license-plate reading cameras in the township and to obtain construction bids for the expansion of Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department Fire Station 9 on High Lake Road.

Short-Term Rentals
East Bay Township could get one step closer to adopting new short-term rental (STR) rules at a special meeting Wednesday at 6:30pm at the township hall. Trustees will review the latest draft of the proposed rules after giving staff feedback at a February meeting. Many of the key provisions discussed at the February meeting remain in place in the new draft, including a cap of 145 total STR licenses in the township – representing 2.5 percent of East Bay’s housing stock.

A buffer would require STRs to be at least 1,000 feet apart from one another, and rentals could only be turned over a maximum of once every seven days. The new rules also require more rigorous septic system inspections, with the STR occupancy limited to two people per each bedroom the septic system is designed to accommodate, plus an additional four people. The draft also states that any trailers, boats, campers, or motor vehicles associated with STRs be parked solely on-site in designated parking areas and not on or along any public or private roads.

While the latest draft says STR licenses are generally non-transferable, it does allow for transfers between immediate family members – including a spouse, child, grandchild, sibling, or grandparent (sibling was added since the last meeting). The new rules also allow for a “cure period” of 60 days if an STR license holder goes to renew their license and discovers there’s a problem, such as a failing septic system. The owner would have to halt all rental activity until the problem is fixed, but would have two months to do so and still be able to renew their license.

As of last fall, East Bay Township had 169 active STR licenses in play – therefore, a cap of 145 would essentially mean no new STR licenses could be issued until existing licenses expire or are non-renewed. The new rules are accompanied by a proposed policy for how new licenses would be issued, including the township announcing at least once a year in multiple public forums when the number of active licenses drops below the cap. The township would set a window during which applications would be accepted, which would be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. If trustees feel comfortable with the latest draft rules and policy Wednesday, they could officially introduce the revised ordinance at an upcoming meeting, followed by a vote to adopt the amendments. East Bay Township currently has a moratorium in place – set to expire June 22 – on issuing any new STR licenses while the board updates the rules.

Trustees could also vote Wednesday on offering a retroactive renewal grace period for STR owners whose licenses lapsed between June 2021 (one year before the moratorium went into effect) and the present. Staff wrote that the moratorium “substantially changed the ramifications for not renewing a license,” noting that “if a license was not renewed on time, then the individuals missed out on an opportunity to renew, thus losing their license altogether.” Staff estimated there are at least 29 individuals impacted by lapsed licenses, including those who were holding off on renewing until the rental season arrived. Multiple letters submitted by STR owners indicated they weren’t aware their licenses had expired and couldn’t be renewed. Staff recommended attaching a potential penalty fee and 30-day response deadline to the renewal grace period.

Sheriff’s Office Cameras
East Bay’s board of trustees recently voted – with one dissenting vote from Trustee Glen Lile – to install license plate-reading cameras in East Bay Township as part of a partnership with the Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Office. The seven cameras – which would be owned and maintained by provider Flock Safety but leased by East Bay Township – would be installed in high-traffic corridors and other strategic locations.

The cameras take high-speed photos of the backs of vehicles as they pass and can provide real-time alerts when cars that are stolen or involved in a crime or AMBER alert travel within the community. An internal algorithm sorts and identifies the clearest photo of each vehicle, then uploads it to a searchable database. The cameras run 24/7 and use infrared technology to capture night photos. Flock Safety representatives said in local presentations that the cameras are not used for speeding or other traffic enforcement, only for crime-solving assistance. The cameras take still photos, not video footage, and do not use biometrics or facial recognition technology. Photos are deleted after 30 days and only accessible by law enforcement, according to representatives.

The cameras cost $2,850 each for the first year – a price that includes installation, for a total of $19,950 for the first year. East Bay Township trustees agreed to a five-year contract at a rate of $17,500 annually for the remaining four years, or a total cost of $89,950 over the contract life. Two other townships have also agreed to install cameras: Peninsula Township approved a one-year contract to install six cameras on Old Mission Peninsula, while Garfield Township approved a four-year contract to have 14 cameras in place. The Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Office expects to have the cameras installed and operational by summer.

Fire Station Expansion
Finally, an expansion could soon be coming to Grand Traverse Metro Fire Department Station 9 on High Lake Road in East Bay Township. Township trustees voted to contract with Cornerstone Architects for up to $7,200 for construction documents, bidding assistance, and site visits to construct two new dorms at Station 9. The construction itself will be a separate cost and will be reviewed and approved by township trustees before work begins.

East Bay Ambulance Director Nick Lemcool originally approached trustees about building one additional dorm, but board members talked and agreed it’d be cheaper to tackle two rooms now instead of constructing one now and returning in the future to build another, which is expected to be needed as the township grows. Expanding from two to four dorms – which are used by firefighters and paramedics – will help accommodate current and future staff (including employees of both genders) at Station 9, which is now staffed 24/7 year-round.