Neighbors fight plan for B&B in subdivision

Ottawa County

GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The battle over a homeowner’s plan to use his residence as a bed and breakfast took center stage at the Georgetown Township planning commission meeting Wednesday evening.

The owner of a home in the 6300 block of Walton Heath Dr. off Port Sheldon Street requested a special use permit from the township so he could use his home as a business. Richard Strengholt said he planned to market on Airbnb and use the lower level of his home to host guests.

“It’s a great service for people traveling,” Strengholt told News 8. “I’ve had people from Italy and Japan and all over the world.”

But some of Strengholt’s neighbors in the Sunningdale subdivision say they don’t want the business. Critics say the bed and breakfast concept presents a safety risk in the neighborhood and threatens home values.

“What would happen if a sexual predator — a registered sex offender — rented this facility and killed my grandchild?” David Deavila said making impassioned remarks to the planning commission. “‘Cause I can assure you I will go after Airbnb, I will go after him (Strengholt) and then I will go after you (the commission).”

“I bought what I bought to get what we have now,” David Vanwyk, another concerned neighbor, said. “It sounds like that’s in jeopardy.”

“Never did we think that businesses might start opening up in a residential area,” neighbor Chari Brink told the planning commission.

Planning commissioners said they were compelled to approve the special use permit by state law given the fact that Strengholt met the qualifications.

The commissioners said they had no power to enforce or get involved in agreements made by the homeowners association that governs the area.

Officials with the HOA said the homeowners’ agreement requires homes be used for single-family use only.

No neighbors showed up to support Strengholt, who said the pushback caught him off guard.

“It upsets me,” he said. “I didn’t have any idea that there were that many concerns in the neighborhood. I will certainly take that into consideration.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the special use request.

Garry VanderPloeg, treasurer of the homeowners association, said the fight against the bed and breakfast isn’t over. He said the HOA will discuss the matter when it meets and may take legal action against Strengholt if the sides can’t come to an agreement.

“You can tell it by the resistance here,” VanderPloeg said. “A lot of the HOA people don’t want it.”

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