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After pausing discussions regarding potential regulation of short-term rentals — better known as Airbnbs or Vrbos — for several months, the topic resurfaced during Monday’s Green Lake Committee of the Whole meeting.

In the near future, the Common Council plans to hold a special meeting to revise its Airbnb ordinance to best fit the needs of the community. The meeting date has yet to be determined.

The last time the Common Council reviewed the ordinance was May 10. It waited to discuss the ordinance until after the tourism season to get a better understanding of short-term rentals’ impact on the local economy.

During Monday’s meeting, Alds. Danielle Reysen and Jon McConnell said Green Lake is facing a shortage of affordable housing, which is being made worse by investors purchasing homes explicitly to use it as a short-term rental.

In fact, short-term rentals within the city of Green Lake have increased by more than 30% since 2019, according to McConnell.

“We really need to think about some kind of balance because there’s an affordable housing shortage in Green Lake,” he said.

Retired Green Lake Superintendent Mary Allen sent a letter to city officials Sunday, explaining how that lack of housing is making it difficult for families and teachers to move to Green Lake.

She said roughly 30% of the students at Green Lake School are “open-enrolled,” meaning they live outside the school district, and that many of the parents of open-enrolled students want to move to Green Lake, but can’t afford to buy a home.

Likewise, teachers face the same problem as many are forced to live in neighboring communities because home prices in Green Lake are too expensive, the former superintendent noted.

“Recent purchases of homes for short-term rentals in residential areas of the city take away the opportunity for families to move to Green Lake and become viable members of the community,” Allen said.

In addition, the Green Lake School District earns more revenue from residential students than open-enrolled students, Allen noted.

“Increasing our resident students would help the school financially,” she said. “More importantly, resident students bring a vibrancy and sense of joy to the community, not to mention future workers, tradesmen and entrepreneurs.”

While tourism and recreation are the heart of the Green Lake economy, without a regulated plan to regulate short-term rentals, the city will not be able to support new families with children, Allen added.

Reysen echoed many of Allen’s sentiments and pointed out that very few city employees live in the city as many families cannot afford to buy homes in Green Lake.

“Look what’s happening in this town already, nothing is open, everything is closing down,” she said. “We have no businesses; everybody’s selling everything. We’re turning into Lake Delton in Wisconsin Dells, where we’re open for three months and we close.”

Although she felt the ordinance was about 80% done, Reysen proposed requiring short-term rentals to be rented for a minimum of seven days and prohibiting them from being rented for six days or less.

“That’s the only thing that we have,” Reysen said. “Otherwise, we’re basically letting them do what they’re doing today, but we have an ordinance.”

Previous versions of the ordinance did include a seven-day minimum requirement, but it was removed at a meeting that Reysen was absent from.

McConnell and Ald. George King agreed. Ald. Jim Jahnke said the move could hurt people looking to stay in Green Lake for just a weekend.

“That could take money out of your businesses,” he said.

However, McConnell said there’s numerous hotels and motels that someone staying for the weekend could utilize.

No formal action was taken during the meeting and it’s unclear how the full Common Council would vote on the seven-night minimum.

In other news

In other news from the Green Lake Committee of the Whole and Common Council meetings:

  • The Common Council unanimously approved a proposal from Johnson Block to conduct a water utility rate case study. Mayor Ray Radis explained that the city will need to raise water rates to prevent financial catastrophe for its water utility. He said it was an issue that has been put off for many years and doing it sooner rather than later will prevent a larger rate increase down the road. It remains unclear what the new water rate would be.
  • Reysen has found three individuals interested in being on an ad hoc committee to revise the city’s sign ordinance. She is still looking for more committee members, but hopes to hold a meeting in the near future. City Attorney Dan Sondalle said he received sign ordinances from other communities that can be provided as reference to the committee.
  • The Common Council unanimously approved moving the tornado siren controls from inside Town Square to an outdoor, weather-proof lock box outside the building.

Written By

Joe Schulz served as the reporter of the Green Laker in 2019 and 2020, before being hired as a reporter for the Commonwealth in October 2020. He is from Oshkosh and graduated from UW-Oshkosh in December with a bachelor's degree in journalism.


(1) comment

David Perkins

Do a thorough survey using VRBO, Airbnb, Craigslist and realtor rental sites to access how many short term rentals are operating currently. Set a number that covers the current amount (or less), make yearly permits necessary on a first come first serve basis with a fee that is comfortable for a business venture and usable for the city coffers. Maybe $300/year. Give the ordinance some teeth for enforcement and have the homes/apartments/cabins posted curbside as a rental property. Set the application process as in person only, this will discourage out of state investment.

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