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Date of Issue: January 14, 2009

Chicago vacationers draw former commissioner's ire

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This RV in Anna Maria was parked at a Fir Avenue rental during the end-of-the-year holidays and some of the renters occupied the vehicle during their stay, according to former City Commissioner Duke Miller. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

A group of more than 20 vacationers from Chicago created a bit of a stir on Fir Avenue in Anna Maria during their Christmas-New Year’s holiday at a beachfront accommodation.

According to Fir Avenue resident and former City Commissioner Duke Miller, the group rented a six-bedroom duplex on Fir and parked a 30-foot-long RV in the driveway. The RV also housed a number of vacationers, he said.

Miller said the group parked the RV in the driveway, then hooked it up to water and electricity from the duplex.

Occupying and using an RV for living quarters is a violation of a city ordinance, Miller said. The RV protruded into the right of way, another code violation and possibly a law enforcement issue, he added.

But Miller said he and other Fir Street residents declined to call city hall to file a complaint.

“Nobody wants to ruin anyone’s holiday,” Miller said.

Although Anna Maria is normally a fairly quiet location for a vacation, even on New Year’s Eve, the revelers evidently thought differently, said Miller.

“The noise, day and night, emanating from the 20-plus people in residence at the six-bedroom property was burdensome, adversely impacting the holiday enjoyment of all those around the duplex,” he said.

The group also had several motorcycles that they started up shortly after midnight on Jan. 1, then again at around 3 a.m., Miller said.

Barbara Sato, whose company, Sato Real Estate, manages the property, was upset about the use of the property and the accompanying RV.

“I had no idea,” Sato responded to Miller.

“Nobody wants to protect and preserve the uniqueness and charm of Anna Maria more than me,” she told Miller.

She said she appreciated the fact that Miller and his neighbors did not call the city to complain about the renters, and said every effort will be made to avoid this type situation in the future.

“Thank you for handling this situation in such a kind way and please send my apologies to the residents on Fir Avenue,” she wrote.

Sato said the renters never indicated they were bringing an RV, or had more people in their party than indicated on the rental agreement. “We can only believe what people tell us,” she said.

Miller suggested property managers make their clients aware of the city regulations designed to “preserve and protect the uniqueness and charm of Anna Maria.”

After all, said Miller, the city’s “uniqueness and charm” are what the rental agents are selling to clients who want to stay in Anna Maria.

And Anna Maria is not being overrun by people living in RVs.

An occupied RV in Anna Maria is a rare sight, said code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon. She said in her seven years with the city, she’s only had two complaints of an RV being used as a residence. In one incident, the owner did not know that city codes prohibit people from living in an RV and promptly moved out.

Rathvon pointed out, however, that the code does allow an RV to be parked on private property. “A lot of people don’t realize that is allowed by the code,” she said.

 Miller said real estate agents should emphasize to renters the city codes, particularly the days for trash and waste collection.

He even suggested it might be time for the city commission to consider an ordinance requiring a minimum 30-day stay for rentals.

Sato said her property managers always provide renters with information on city codes, but will now be more vigilant than ever in examining out-of-town applications for rentals, and advise renters of the RV code.