Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn’s concern that the city could be losing its old Florida character with increasing vacation rentals appears to have merit.
The city population fell from 1,814 residents in 2000 to 1,503 in the 2010 census, a 17.1 percent decline, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s online figures.
Yet the number of vacation rentals and adding more bedrooms at vacation rentals is growing, SueLynn said.
Code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon has documented 452 vacation rental properties in the city in a database, and she is still adding to the list. She said many properties rented out by owners are not in the database because they are difficult to track.
The 452 documented vacation rentals represent 27.7 percent of all buildings — commercial and residential — in the city.
Code enforcement and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies at the Anna Maria substation use the database when they respond to a complaint or incident at a rental property. The database gives them the name and phone number of the responsible party.
City treasurer Diane Percycoe said Anna Maria has 1,647 parcels with structures on them and 186 vacant parcels.
The mayor is concerned that as more homes become vacation rentals, more visitors are coming to the city who do not know the city’s noise, nuisance and parking ordinances. She envisions investors buying vacant properties and building vacation more rentals for investment returns.
The mayor and several property managers and rental agents in Anna Maria have established a list of best practices that are given to tenants when they register, but there are a few owners and rental agents who have yet to subscribe to the recommendations.
A major problem with uninformed vacationers is loud noises and partying after 10 p.m., SueLynn said. It’s just a few people who don’t know the code who can ruin the vacation and residential experience for their neighbors, she observed.
“Please understand, I am all in favor of tourism and growth, but it must be managed tourism and growth. We must keep the residential character of our city,” SueLynn said.
“We are a small, old-Florida city that draws a lot of visitors every year. I’m happy people can see what a wonderful city we have, but we have to ensure it’s here for future generations,” the mayor said.
The Legislature passed a bill in June 2011 allowing any homeowner to rent his or her home. The bill did not affect grandfathered city codes that restrict rentals to specific areas of a city, but Anna Maria had no such code in place in 2011.
The mayor wants to do all she can to ensure Anna Maria remains old Florida for residents and visitors, but the continued loss of residents is a growing concern.
And it’s not just Anna Maria that is losing people and adding vacation rentals, she said.
According to the 2000 census, Holmes Beach had 4,966 residents and the 2010 census reported 3,836 residents. In Bradenton Beach, the Census Bureau reported the population went from 1,482 in 2000 to 1,171 in 2010.
The bureau reported Anna Maria Island’s three cities had a total population in 2000 of 8,262 people. That figure dropped to 6,510 in the 2010 census, a decline of 21.2 percent.
“Think about that,” SueLynn said. “In 10 years, this island lost more than 20 percent of its residents. Think of the reasons why this has happened.”
She hopes there will be some old Florida left on Anna Maria Island for future generations.
The mayor said she would like the commission to look at the number of parking spaces allowed at all residences, including vacation rentals.
“Right now, people can park on the lawn of a house. It’s legal,” she said.
The mayor also would like commissioners to consider that there is no restriction on the number of bedrooms that can be constructed, or added to a current dwelling if other codes are met.