Anna Maria commission votes 3-2, halts moratorium

Contractors and builders in Anna Maria can now have their building permit applications reviewed and approved as city commissioners voted 3-2 at their March 15 meeting to lift the administrative moratorium in place since Feb. 23.

The decision came after Commissioners Dale Woodland, Jo Ann Mattick and John Quam said they believe stricter code enforcement would eliminate many of the problems being experienced at vacation rental properties, not a moratorium on construction.

Favoring continuation of the moratorium were Commissioners SueLynn and Chair Chuck Webb.

The administrative moratorium to halt review and approval of building permits passed 5-0 after SueLynn expressed concern at the Feb. 23 commission meeting that construction of more large, multi-bedroom homes would lead to larger vacation rentals, and that would present a problem.

Other commissioners also had concerns at the Feb. 23 meeting that more rentals could create problems in the city.

City planner Alan Garrett agreed that the city is “seeing more home (applications) coming with larger square footage, more bedrooms and the potential for a greater number of occupants.”

But regulation of rental homes is difficult. He can’t look at a building permit application and determine if it’s for a rental or residence. An application for a 4-5 bedroom house could well be for a permanent residence, he said.

“Trying to limit the number of bedrooms is not easy,” he said, “and you can’t single out short-term rentals” for restriction in an ordinance.

Commissioners listed problems such as loud noise after 10 p.m., loud pool parties day and night, curbside trash, excessive parked cars, the number of bedrooms in rental houses and the “box-like” appearance of the second floor of new homes.

Woodland said there was nothing on the problems list that warranted a moratorium. The solution is code enforcement.

“I am opposed to everything you have on the board. Telling people how to shape their house is going too far. The same applies for the number of bedrooms,” he said.

Building official Bob Welch said that in his experience the issue of tear-down and rebuild as a single-family with numerous bedrooms is about the money.

“Island living is money driven. You are always going to have investors looking to maximize their investment by adding rooms or gaining height,” he said.

Welch suggested discussion was moving away from the problem of “late-night revelers” and large homes being turned into rentals.

“That should be our focus,” he said.

Woodland said he didn’t think the commission was the appropriate venue to handle vacationers who cause problems. The rental agents are the first line of defense, and they seem to have more authority in a lease than a commission ordinance or code, he said.

Dye agreed, saying that property managers with a signed lease from the tenant, could act faster than the city in getting a rowdy renter evicted.

Webb, however, said what property managers are doing is not something the city is regulating.

“We are talking about do we have a problem, and what can the city do about it?” said Webb.

Commissioners discussed enacting a license ordinance requiring all city businesses to register with the city, and Webb said he had asked the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation if the city could take over that duty from the DBPR. All rental properties must be registered with the DBPR.

SueLynn favored some form of licensing for the database of information on vacation rental property owners. Code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon has a current list of 80-90 percent of vacation property owners/managers in the city provided by Larry Chatt of Island Real Estate and Mike Brinson of AMI Accommodations, two of the larger property management companies on the Island.

Based on the discussion, Dye said there are two issues: structural and behavioral. The rental agents and code enforcement can deal with bad behavior. The structural issues might need more examination by the city.

Mattick said code enforcement is the proper solution for vacation rental issues, and will be effective over time.

Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration, which manages vacation rentals, agreed. He said passing a moratorium because of issues at rentals with loud noises, trash left curbside too long and excessive parking is not sufficient to “punish everybody.”

Contractors and builders have laid off employees because permits can’t be issued, even for remodeling or improvements, he said.

Webb and SueLynn suggested the city advertise the second public hearing of the moratorium for March 29, but Quam said the commission could decide that now.

“I guess it comes down to me. I don’t favor advertising for the moratorium. I support lifting the administrative moratorium,” he said.

The vote was 3-2 to halt the second reading. Webb said that meant the moratorium was no longer on the table.

Welch asked Dye for clarification to ensure that he could resume issuing building permits and inspecting and approving construction.

Dye said he could.

Although the moratorium was lifted, SueLynn said she still has her concerns about “my city.”

There are too many rentals, not enough parking and too many people leaving, she said.

“I am worried about this city. I’m concerned we’re fast becoming another Fort Lauderdale,” she said.

5 thoughts on “Anna Maria commission votes 3-2, halts moratorium

  1. Ted Darby

    Not only do we have to contend with the mega mansions for rentals, we also have to contend with people painting them hideous colors. Look at the big box buildings across the street from AME or drive down pine Ave and look at Vinny and Cheryls Pizza place. Where do these people get their ideas of “blending in”? Why do they want to do this to our island?

    1. Ah

      Well said Ted! They are all so arrogant they believe they can improve on paradise or are they just trying to cash in. Seriously you would have to be color blind to paint your properties that revolting shade of lime green. But take a look along Pine – all the properties painted that green belong to Lizzie Thrasher – lime and purple are her ‘signature’ colors. Nobody ever said money could buy taste!

  2. Ken Kavanaugh

    Zoning restrictions, building codes, and design review are the key tools to shape the end result of future land development in Anna Maria. In the near future our community has an opportunity to demonstrate foresight and respect for owners property rights, the improved environment, lifestyle impact, and visitor experience.

    Sooner or later, one block from Mike Selby’s home on Bean Point, five new mega-mansions will stand one day when the five lots under the Anna Maria Motel sell. Will they be used for residences, rentals, or a combination of the two?

    Now there is an opportunity for the leaders of Anna Maria to demonstrate smart growth and preserve the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. The development of five contiguous lots in a short time period will have impact, one way or another. You choose which way. That motel site almost rises to the level of a Development of Regional Impact. Ok, at least for the City of Anna Maria it does.

  3. Ah

    Ken there is little danger of that happening. Rental agencies and realtors almost outnumber the number of full time residents on the island! And therein lies the problem – the island is totally geared around promoting tourism and the tourists with zero regard for the effect that has on people trying to live here year round. And why should we be made to feel guilty for wanting to keep the unspoilt island that attracted both full time residents and a few tourists initially? Sadly due to the current number of visitors paradise is disappearing fast and I wonder what the new visitors must think when they were promised a sleepy, quiet, until now undiscovered piece of Florida. Instead the beaches are packed and you have to sit in traffic for an hour if you even want to get on and off the island. Not to mention the increase in noise pollution and crime. This is not what either full time residents or indeed the visitors came for. The tragedy is that those with the power have exploited the island for their own gain and in the process ruined it for residents and visitors alike.

  4. Ken Quinton

    As a yearly visitor from the UK to your island for the past 6 years i read week after week in your paper the anti tourist feelings/views.How long is it before you ban rentals and close down the rental agencies on the island and dont welcome visitors anymore only then i guess will the Island return to tranquility which it seems you all pine for.


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