MASON, Mich. — Mason amended a city ordinance two years ago to allow Airbnbs and other short-term rentals within the central business district for a trial period of three years.
Now, one Mason woman is hoping city leaders will do the same for residential areas of Mason, starting with her house on Jefferson Street.
Melissa Heiselt and her husband bought the house at 103 N. Jefferson St. in the middle of the pandemic.
"We were just scrambling to find anything that we could that was in the right school district," Heiselt said. "This house is adorable and we loved it, so we moved right in."
Heiselt said her family of six quickly found it to be "a little tight quarters."
But, they still loved the house.
"So, we just thought, 'You know what would be really cute? Is if we made this house into an Airbnb and just shared this with the community,'" Heiselt said. "This home has a lot of history. It was built in 1875."
There is one obstacle, however. Short-term rentals aren't allowed in residential areas of Mason. Her only option would be to make the house a bed and breakfast and live on the premises, but she doesn't want to do that.
"It never occurred to me that it might not be allowed to have an Airbnb in a small town," Heiselt said.
Her other options are to change the zoning on her home, which she didn't want to do, or to change the ordinance, which is what she's trying to do, just as Jamie Robinson did in 2019.
Robinson, owner of The Vault Delicatessen in downtown Mason, has two apartments above the deli that she rents out using Airbnb.
"I knew we didn't have a hotel downtown," Robinson said, so she spearheaded the original amendment that allowed short term rentals within the business district for three years.
"I had to pay for a code change," Robinson said. "Write the actual code myself with help from other areas."
But according to Robinson, it was worth it.
"The family that stayed the last two Christmases lives in Dansville, but they just want to celebrate Christmas in downtown Mason," Robinson said.
Now she is booked every weekend and sometimes during the week.
"I noticed if it's a home football game at MSU, all of a sudden my base rate, which is anywhere between $99 during the week and $109 or $120 on the weekends — but all of a sudden it'll be like $150 to rent the room," Robinson said.
Heiselt said she noticed Robinson's Airbnbs were "booked solid through April," along with "all the other hotel-type options in Mason."
"So, I feel like there's a little bit of room for maybe some more offerings," Heiselt said.
Councilmember Rita Vogel agreed.
"As we continue to see the economic impacts of COVID, we need to engage in all opportunities to support motivated, tax-paying property owners," Vogel wrote in a statement. "It's about creating space for economic growth. This may be a great opportunity for the city of Mason to get creative."
Mason Mayor Russ Whipple said the planning commission will consider Heiselt's request.
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