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Anna Maria seeks harmony for residents, vacationers

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

The Anna Maria City Commission, spearheaded by Commissioner SueLynn, is trying to establish guidelines for vacation renters and rental agents to maintain peace and quiet for residents and vacationers.

But there are always a few renters and rental agents who provide difficulties, SueLynn pointed out at the commission’s June 14 meeting. The 2 percent of rental agents who don’t comply with the guidelines spoil it for the other 98 percent — and city residents.

SueLynn was a driving force in the creation of a list of best practices that many rental agents abide by when renting a property. At the same time, participating agents give renters a list of tips on how to be a good neighbor in Anna Maria.

Rental agents give advice on the city’s noise ordinance, turtle nesting and other helpful hints, she said.

When a complaint about a particular property comes to the city or the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in Anna Maria, the rental agent or owner is contacted to deal with the problem.

But there are lingering problems.

“I’ve been keeping track of complaints about vacationers, and we’ve had three complaints about just one property,” SueLynn said. The complaints are primarily that this vacation rental is advertised to rent to several families at the same time, and the noise level after 10 p.m. has been excessive.

The property owner has not agreed to use the best practices policies.

SueLynn said she was meeting with the owner to try and reach some common ground to lessen the impact of this type of rental on neighboring residents.

But the issue has been under discussion the past year with no results, said Commissioner Dale Woodland.

“What’s the problem we’re trying to solve here?” he asked.

SueLynn said it’s difficult to find a happy medium for vacationers, residents and agents to coexist.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said enforcing noise and nuisance ordinances along with the use of best practices and cooperation by agents is going a long way to “stay on top” of the problem.

“We can’t adopt new ordinances, but we can enforce those we have,” Webb said.

Woodland countered that enforcement is “dicey,” and would “piss off a lot of people.

“I don’t think rules and regulations are the solution. It’s a waste of time for everybody,” Woodland said.

Webb and SueLynn, however, said the city should do something to protect the quality of life for residents.

Since the economic downturn, Webb said he’s seen quite a few people sell their homes and move off the Island, while investors are buying properties to “maximize” their investment, and that means, “squeezing more and more people into a property.”

And if residents continue to leave Anna Maria, eventually “we’ll have nothing left but a large motel complex,” Webb said.

Furthermore, the city is not on a witch hunt to seek out people who violate city codes. It’s just trying to accommodate residents and vacationers, Webb said.

SueLynn said she gets frustrated when Woodland claims the city is doing nothing.

Nearly all rental agents use the best practices and distribute good neighbor suggestions, she said, and the city now has a database of nearly 400 rental agents and property owners to determine who to call in the event of an incident.

Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration, which owns rental properties, said the city is headed in the right direction.

“You are doing something. None of us want an adversarial Anna Maria, and trying to be polite to renters and rental agents helps. It’s just a few who interfere with the residential quality of the city,” he said.

Webb said there is little the city can do with agents and vacationers who ignore the best practices guidelines except enforce codes, including noise and nuisance.

The next commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 28, at the Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

 

City official has right to inspect

By Rick Catlin

Islander Reporter

Following a story in the June 13 edition of The Islander about unpermitted work at 804 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, where bedrooms were observed on the ground floor, several people have questioned building official Bob Welch’s right to look through the windows.

But that’s just part of his job.

Welch said he was on the property inspecting the permitted construction of a swimming pool when he glanced through a ground-floor window and observed beds. Welch said city code gives him the right to come on any property that is permitted for construction and at any time to inspect that property, regardless of whether the owner is present.

Welch said he also can inspect a property if he sees something he believes is detrimental to the “health, safety and welfare” of either the occupants, the neighbors or the city.

Shawn Kaleta, owner of the house, maintains there are no ground-floor bedrooms and said the issue would be cleared up when Welch makes an indoor inspection of the house.

Welch, who also is a city code enforcement officer, sent Kaleta a letter giving him 30 days to bring the house into compliance with city code, which states that any house built after 1974 cannot use the ground floor as living space. The ordinance complies with the standard rules of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The original plans for the house show the ground floor was permitted for two parking spaces and two storage rooms. Additionally, those plans show the second and third floors of living space have three bedrooms, a den, nursery, study area and breakfast room.

Welch said the interior was remodeled in 2002.

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