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Municipalities Dismayed, Property Owners Pleased As Short-term Rental Bill Advances




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Local government officials say they’re disappointed after the state House passed a bill that allows homeowners to set up short term rentals where ever they own property.

House Bill 4722, along with its companion Senate Bill 446, has been making its way through the Legislature for several months. The bills remove local governments’ ability to outright ban short-term rentals like Airbnb’s or weekly vacation rentals based on zoning ordinances. Early Wednesday, H.B. 4722 passed in a 55-47 vote. The Senate bill still remains in committee.

“Instead of just having the local governments be able to ban short-term rentals by trying to zone them out of existence, which I believe is a significant infringement on property owner rights, (the legislation) provides a right to rent for individual homeowners,” state Sen. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, who sponsored the Senate bill, said.

He said his bill and the House bill are about fighting for a homeowner’s right to use their property as they see fit.

“Some folks, to be able to afford their second home or multigenerational family home, to be able to afford the taxes, them being able to rent it out for a few weeks or few months out of the year helps that,” Nesbitt said.

City officials in Holland say the legislation virtually guts all existing local regulation of short-term rentals.

“I’m not aware of a single local unit in Michigan that is not against this legislation. Foundationally, it’s an attack on local control, where we certainly believe that residents in their local community and the local elected officials are the best ones to determine what is right for their community,” Holland City Manager Keith Van Beek said.

Van Beek says the city spent a little more than two years developing local ordinances based on feedback from the community. Currently, short-term rentals are only allowed in commercial use areas and some mixed-use areas like downtown Holland. The city also instituted a cap of 25 short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods and a 500-foot buffer between each rental property.

“Our community really spoke up and said, ‘We want to retain those as residential neighborhoods.’ And an outside commercial use, which we fundamentally disagree with, of basically having a rotating hotel in the middle of neighborhoods … we do not believe is good for neighborhoods,” Van Beek said. “One person’s property rights is another person’s nuisance and I’m just as concerned, if not more concerned, about the property rights of people that live around what now could be a commercial use in the middle of a residential neighborhood.”

Lawmakers say local officials will still have some control over short-term rentals noise level, advertising and traffic. They also will be able to limit the number of units under common ownership, which would help prevent large corporations from coming into local towns and buying up property to convert into rentals.

“If somebody is bothering the peace and security of other neighbors, absolutely the local governments and police should have the authority to intercede to have good neighborhoods, but I think just zoning short-term rentals out of existence is not the proper solution,” Nesbitt said.

City of Grand Haven pushes back against state short-term rental bills

While state and local lawmakers continue to disagree, some short-term rental property owners say this is good news.

“We’ve been trying really hard to spread the word about the goodness of vacation rentals and how much positive impact it can have on a community: the economic impact, the tourism industry and we bring in taxes. We charge that 6% Michigan use tax, which does trickle down to the school districts,” said Cara Middleton with Freshwater Vacation rentals.

Middleton started her company in 2005 after she and her husband bought a small private island in the Upper Peninsula. Middleton says she was a teacher and her husband was a steel worker at the time. She said they converted the property into a vacation rental and hoped money from renters would help pay for it. Today, Middleton owns five rental properties and says she manages about 75 more, including several in West Michigan.

She says she believes the pushback from neighbors stems from misconceptions about short-term rentals.

“There’s a misconception about it being a party house and most of our guests are just families, small families, going to visit other family in the neighborhood and they would prefer just to stay down the street from their family instead of in a hotel. A lot of the areas we service don’t even have hotels, so there’s nowhere else to stay,” Middleton said.

The House Bill still has to make it through the Senate. From there, it will head to the governor’s desk.

Lawmakers say they’re now in discussions regarding next steps on Senate Bill 446, which is still in committee. Nesbitt says because the bills are not dependent on one another, lawmakers may just focus their efforts on getting H.B. 4722 signed into law.

Van Beek says he hopes homeowners who spent two years discussing local regulation of Airbnb’s make their opinions known to their state representatives.

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Health News

New GR Pharmacy to Serve Spanish-speaking Patients




GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — By the end of the year, Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood will have a new pharmacy.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria began construction Monday morning on the $1.5 million project. The new pharmacy will include both walk-up and drive-thru services.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria practice leader Kameron Selleck it will offer convenience in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a pharmacy close in proximity, making it challenging for patients to get their prescriptions in a timely manner.

“A lot of our patients do encounter a lot of social barriers in their lives,” Selleck said.

He added that a language barrier can make it difficult patients to get their prescriptions. He said nearly every employee at Clinica Santa Maria is bilingual in Spanish and the plan is for that trend to carry over to new pharmacy and pharmacy tech hires.

“I think this project was announced almost five years ago, so it’s here,” Selleck said. “I just really encourage the community to be as excited as we are.

The pharmacy is at 730 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW (formerly Grandville Avenue) at Martin Luther King Jr. Street (formerly Franklin Street) in Grand Rapids. It will be the seventh Trinity Health pharmacy in the Grand Rapids area, with the other locations being Cathedral Square, the Wege Building at Trinity Heath Saint Mary’s, Hudsonville, Rockford, Byron Center and Southeast Grand Rapids.

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Tulip Time Crowds Encouraging for Returning Festivals




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Tulip Time saw big crowds this year as it returned to a more regular schedule.

The event was cancelled in 2020 and scaled back last year because of the pandemic.

Hot temperatures caused damage to some of Holland’s tulips, Tulip Time organizers say.

The heat caused challenges for the 2022 festival. The Tulip Immersion Garden, a new attraction, had to close early because the hot temperatures caused too much damage to the flowers, Tulip Time Executive Director Gwen Auwerda said.

“They don’t like 80 degree, 90 degree weather. Tulips prefer it to be about 40 at night, 60 to 70, maybe 80 during the day,” Auwerda said.

Heat closes down Tulip Time Immersion Garden early

The organization is working on final numbers but saw attendance return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I do know that the carnival exceeded 2019 by 25 to 30%, so that was fabulous for them and it was packed everywhere in town,” Auwerda said.

Kevin Knight, the owner of Market Zero, said the festival definitely provided a boost as they worked to keep up with demand. 

“It’s a huge kick off to your summer season,” Knight said. “Our fridges were completely full and got completely empty and completely full and completely empty, so it was about everything we could handle.”

Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022. Inside Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022.

The return of crowds could be good sign for other events coming back this summer, like the Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids. Mark Azkoul, an organizer for the event that began in 1970, sees the success of Tulip Time as encouraging.

Tulip Time has record-breaking opening weekend

“We’ve been out for two years so this is a big thing for us and for the city to get Festival back up and going,” Azkoul said.

Organizers created the Plein Air event for 2021, which combined outdoor art and music.

The 2022 event runs June 3 through June 5. After taking a break because of the pandemic the festival needs extra help.    

“A lot of people still don’t know yet festival is coming back, so we really want to get the word out. We need more volunteers,” Azkoul said.

People interested in volunteering can sign up on the Festival of the Arts website.


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Health News

Mom Does ‘small Part’ to Help Parents Who Need Formula




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Though there appears to an end of the baby formula shortage in sight, it’s still causing problems for parents, so a mother in Holland did what she could to help.

Abbott Nutrition has announced its entered into an agreement with the federal Food and Drug Administration to restart its Sturgis plant within two weeks. The closure of that plant has been a huge contributing factor to the shortage. The company expects its products to ship to stores eight weeks after production resumes.

But for now, many parents can’t find the formula they need. The low supply has some stores limiting the number of formulas customers can purchase, adding that they are in “extraordinary high” demand.

The baby formula shelves at a Meijer in Holland.

So Caitlin Dampier, a mother of two whose youngest is a 3-month-old girl, stepped up to help where she could.

“I really wish I could help out more, but this is just my small part,” Dampier said.

She got a box of Enfamil formulas that she’s not using because she’s breastfeeding.

“When you’re pregnant, you get free samples and so I thought I would just offer mine for free for mothers who need them,” Dampier said. “I kept it around in case I wasn’t able to breastfeed.”

5 things to know if you can’t find baby formula

Dampier made a post on Facebook this week directed at parents who can’t find formula. The box she received included three cans of Enfamil formulas and two ready-made formulas.

Two mothers reached out to her, including Kourtney Hann, another Holland resident. She’s one of thousands of mothers across the country who have had to go to great lengths to find food for their baby.

“I have had to go to stores maybe 45 minutes away just to even try to get formula,” she said. “It’s very hard to find them where I’m at right now. I went to Walmart yesterday and all they had was Similac and my daughter has a really bad reaction to Similac.”

Hann was able to connect with Dampier and picked up a can of Enfamil. Dampier left the box on her front porch with the message, “Please take only the formula you chose and tear out some coupons for yourself. My prayers are with you during this difficult time.”

The box of Enfamil products Caitlin Dampier left at her door for mothers to pick up.

Hann said she was down to her last can of baby formula which lasts her about five days. Now that she has received another can from Dampier, she’ll be able to feed her 9-month-old for the next two weeks.

“Being a mom is hard enough as it is. You have so many other struggles and to be afraid to know if you’re going to be able to feed your baby or not is a struggle,” Dampier said. “You want to do everything for your kids so when you’re not able to it’s hard. It’s just the worst feeling in the world.”


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