While each candidates seeking election to the Holmes Beach City Commission have said a major issue is the proliferation of rental homes with four to six bedrooms, there’s apparently little city officials can do about the perceived problems
“Construction is controlled by state law, the Florida Building Code,” said Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.
“We have no power to limit the number of bedrooms. We don’t have that privilege.” The city can make setback and height requirements, but can’t regulate ownership or the number of rooms, he said.
He said he’s had numerous discussions on the subject with city attorney Patricia Petruff and others, and they’ve all given the same answer.
At present, duplexes — two units — are allowed in the R-2 zone. When an applicant applies for a building permit for a unit with five or six bedrooms, the city can require one on-site parking space for each bedroom if the owner-contractor states the unit will be a transient rental. An owner-occupied duplex only needs two spaces per unit.
“You think they are going to say it’s transient?” the mayor asked.
The city cannot control ownership and a duplex is a form of ownership, Bohnenberger explained. It could even be called a two-unit condominium, and a condominium also is a form of ownership.
Public works superintendent Joe Duennes, who is in charge of the building department, said that when a site plan is presented, building inspectors do not question someone planning a six-bedroom unit or duplex.
“We can’t assume it’s going to be a transient vacation rental,” Duennes said. A transient rental site plan would require one on-site parking space for each bedroom, he said. And there are some people who have a need for a large home, he noted.
“We can’t presume the application is false,” Duennes said.
Although a duplex site plan can’t be denied because inspectors think it’s a vacation rental, Duennes has put a hold on any duplex building permit application with four or more bedrooms, pending action by the commission.
And there may yet be a solution to halt the sudden growth in the city of large duplexes and land condos that are being used as vacation accommodations.
The commission can amend the land-development code to require one on-site parking space for each bedroom, regardless of ownership, Bohnenberger said.
The mayor said he plans to ask the commission to move fast on just such an amendment.
Developers have realized they can “condoize” a duplex, he said, and market it as an investment, a transient rental property.
That’s already happening, according to the website www.9solutions.net.
The website advertises rental portfolios and vacation rentals and says it has built a number of four- to six-bedroom duplexes as vacation investment properties.
“The primary attraction of Anna Maria Island to investors,” the website states, “lies with the strength of the vacation rental market, which continues to outperform its competitors and run contrary to the prevailing economic climate.
The recent increase in multi-unit construction prompted 60-year resident Mary Buonagura to ask commissioners at their Oct. 25 meeting for answers to her concerns and those of her neighbors.
“Many of us are concerned about the plethora of ‘pastel palaces’ popping up all over faster than sand spurs in summer,” she said.
While she does not have a problem with anyone buying and selling property, it is “troubling,” she said, to read in the newspaper the “manner in which they are going up.”
These duplexes are “changing the Island from a balanced use of land, including residential and a rental mix, to a short-term rental vacation resort,” she said.
According to the 9solutions website, the company is managed by Hanson Ventures LLP and Steven Hanson of Bradenton.
Hanson and Anna Maria Island developer Shawn Kaleta are listed on the website as officers and/or agents for a number of corporations and condominium associations on Anna Maria Island.
Efforts to reach Hanson and Kaleta for comment were unsuccessful.
Duennes and building officials have been re-inspecting all duplexes and homes built in the past 18 months to determine whether they violate city. Inspectors found 10 alleged violations three weeks ago and sent notices to the owners. The rental tax licenses of those 10 properties were suspended pending resolution of the complaints.
Duennes said inspections last week found two more properties allegedly violating city code, and notices will be sent to the owners and the rental tax licenses suspended. A few more inspections are scheduled, Duennes said.
Holmes Beach code states any unit rented for 30 days or less is a transient vacation rental.