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Citizen solutions flow at HB meeting

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

        Holmes Beach commissioners heard a multitude of suggestions Dec. 13 from residents and business people regarding complaints related to the city’s short-term rental policies and duplex construction.

        Attended by more than 100 residents, about 20 property managers, real estate professionals and others spoke before a packed chamber in what Holmes Beach Commission Chair David Zaccagnino introduced as “not a gripe,” but rather “a brainstorming session.”

        The discussion came at the beginning of the evening in response to residents who had waited more than two hours at the previous city commission meeting to voice their concerns.

        First at the podium, Holmes Beach resident and Island Real Estate vice president Larry Chatt said he was committed to staying proactive as one of “five of the seven largest property managers on the Island.” He said the group had been meeting over the past five weeks, and each manager had agreed to support the following “best practices” and changes:

        • Encourage rear-door trash service and a central recycling center.

        • Request that Waste Management provide units with four or more bedrooms with two or more trash cans.

        • Require at check-in that rental agents or owners hand a note to guests stating that “the goodwill of our neighbors is important,” underage drinking is not tolerated, parking shall not occur other than as permitted and excessive noise is not allowed, especially after 10 p.m.

        • Require at check-in that agents confirm with guests the number in the party and how many vehicles will be parked at the accommodation.

        • Recommend all rental agents give police dispatch a list of properties under their commission so that in the event of an incident, the agent can be contacted and immediately call the guest. Chatt suggested that agents/owners should be required to provide this information on obtaining a business license.

        • Recommend absentee owners meet their neighbors and introduce their renters.

        “I live in Holmes Beach. The last thing I want to do is walk down the street and have people think I don’t care about the Island,” Chatt said.

        Ron Travis of Remax Alliance Group and a Holmes Beach resident said, “There’re no teeth in best practices.” He suggested warnings for first offenses, followed by $250 fines for second offenses to each property owner, real estate agent and tenant.

        Jeff Gerry, owner and manager of White Sands and Tropical Breeze, suggested that the city’s “first line of defense” against overcrowded rental houses should be regulating overnight parking or establishing “tow zones.”

        “As a property manager, we have to police our own property,” Gerry added.

Land-use issues

        Residents also pointed out land-use issues at the meeting.

        “If it’s not residential, it’s commercial, and there are different regulations,” said David Teitelbaum, motel owner, in reference to different code requirements for residential and commercial accommodations.

        “Anna Maria Island has a wonderful mix of residents,” he said, but, if laws are broken, evictions can be enforced. Teitelbaum suggested a rental agreement written in conformance with state, federal and local laws in which “people will get evicted” if certain violations occur.

        Holmes Beach resident Jayne Christensen said “the root of problem lies” from the fact new duplexes are built on a single lot and slab, but are sold to two unrelated owners.

        “We run the risk of losing our residential neighborhoods,” said Sue Normand, business owner and chair of the Holmes Beach Planning Commission. She favored forming a committee to identify the applicable codes and recommend enforcement measures with “teeth.”

        Other suggestions from residents at the work session included:

        • More ticket-writing for nuisance complaints, and police calls to property owners as well as rental agents.

        • Creating revenue sources in addition to the business tax receipts to cover the cost of stepped up fire inspections, police calls and code enforcement.

        • Reviewing setback, parking, building code restrictions and corresponding enforcement measures to resolve the problem of stagnant “construction zones.”

        • Forming ad hoc committees to research problems and solutions and otherwise assist city officials.

        • Determining the cause of problems and addressing them directly.

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