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Anna Maria halts short-term vacation rentals

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Commissioner Chuck Webb presents his 13-page memo Jan. 24 detailing rental prohibitions in the comprehensive plan and land use codes. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

It was standing room only Jan. 24, when Anna Maria commissioners passed a motion to enforce a prohibition on home rentals of less than 30 days. Commissioner Chuck Webb wrote a 13-page advance memo claiming the comprehensive plan prohibits short-term rentals. Islander Photos: Rick Catlin

At the Anna Maria city commission’s Jan. 24 meeting, the vote was 4-1 on a motion by Commissioner Chuck Webb to prohibit rentals of less than 30 days in the city’s residential district. Webb claimed the city’s comprehensive plan prohibits rentals of less than 30 days in the Residential-1 district.

The vote was the commission’s first salvo in what is likely to become a legal battle over vacation rentals, the comprehensive plan and a 2011 statute that allows homeowners to rent their home for any length of time. The statute prohibits cities from imposing different regulations for rental homes and owner-occupied homes in the same zone.

Commissioner Dale Woodland voted no, saying he had just gotten Webb’s 13-page memo and wanted the commission to study the motion until its February meeting.

Webb, an attorney, said he spent hours reading over the city’s comprehensive plan and legal precedents before composing the memo, which was distributed to commissioners late Jan. 23 and earlier on Jan. 24.

Webb said the city already has an ordinance restricting short-term rentals in its zone, and the comprehensive plan states the city is “primarily a single-family residential community.”

But, he said, that character has changed since the comp plan was adopted in 2007 because of a proliferation of short-term “transient” rentals.

He claimed that 65 percent of all homes in the city now are vacation rentals. The majority of the city is no longer “primarily” for single-family residences and that violates the comp plan, he said.

The statute allows any homeowner in an incorporated municipality to rent his/her house without restriction on the length of stay. The bill grandfathered existing rental restrictions.

Webb maintains the city prohibited rentals of less than 30 days before the rental statute passed in 2011.

The packed commission chambers erupted in applause when Webb said short-term vacation rentals are ruining the quality of life for residents.

“This is nothing new,” Webb said. “The law has been on the books for years. The bottom line is if short-term rentals are not specifically allowed in the Residential-1 zone, then they are not permitted.”

In addition to the ROR and commercial zones distributed along Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue, there are recreational and public use zones, and R-1, the city’s only residential zone. Any existing duplexes were grandfathered and any remaining vacant duplex lots were eliminated in the 2007 comp plan.

Woodland liked portions of the motion, but asked commissioners to wait and allow time to study the ramifications and legality of the measure.

Chair John Quam asked city attorney Jim Dye for his opinion, but Dye said he just received the memo and needed time to review the statute and applicable case law. He also noted he and his siblings own a vacation rental in the city and he may need to excuse himself.

However, Dye said, at first glance, Webb’s memo is “a good starting point for the city.”

“You are not changing an ordinance, but as you know there is a statute that the city can’t treat short-term rental owners differently than other owners in the (R-1) zone,” Dye said.

Dye said if the motion is challenged in court, there could be an issue as to whether the city enforced the 30-day restriction before the statute existed.

“I’m still working my way through this, but if we proceed down this path and get sued, you can bring in the legality of House Bill 883 being constitutional,” he said.

Dye said he would prepare his opinion for the Feb. 14 commission meeting.

He noted there is a growing movement among other cities to ask their state legislators to look into problems with HB 883 during the upcoming 2013 legislative session. Legislative change is the best way to eliminate or amend HB 883, he said.

There was immediate opposition from the gallery to Webb’s motion.

Larry Chatt, broker and co-owner of Island Real Estate, which manages a large number of vacation rentals in the city, said, “I own a vacation rental in Anna Maria and I intend to litigate the issue. And I’m advising the owners of the properties we manage to do the same.”

He said enforcement of Webb’s motion may result in property owners becoming unable to pay mortgages and, if forced to sell, a glut of homes will come on the market, lowering values and curtailing Anna Maria’s tourism-based businesses.

Chatt told commissioners the economic repercussions would be “astronomical.”

Attorney Scott Rudacille of the law firm of Blalock Walters, P.A., told commissioners that he represents clients who own rental property in the city, and that the city has allowed these short-term rentals for decades.

He claimed the city can’t suddenly change its policy based upon an interpretation. The city should hold public hearings on the matter, he said.

Rudacille said there will be economic issues for property owners if their homes cannot be rented for less than 30 days, and his clients have told him “they intend to use all powers available to enforce their property rights.”

He declined to say if that meant bringing a lawsuit against the city.

Woodland said he “hated to see what is happening” and again urged restraint, saying more than 90 percent of short-term vacation rentals are good people who come to enjoy the city, don’t cause trouble and obey and respect city laws.

“We’re not being smart and studying this carefully. We all know we’re going to end up in court over this. I want changes, but I’m just not sure this is the road to go down,” Woodland added.

Commissioner Gene Aubry, however, said the city should take action and lead the issue.

“If they want to sue us, bring it on,” he said to another round of applause.

Mayor SueLynn said the motion was effective immediately, but city building official Bob Welch and Dye said they need time to review how it can be enforced.

Many of the short-term vacation rentals in Anna Maria’s residential zone have already been reserved for the February-April season and beyond, according to an unofficial survey of rental property managers.

17 Responses to Anna Maria halts short-term vacation rentals

  1. Tom Mixon says:

    Great job by the Council! Enforce your own ordinances!

  2. Brenda says:

    I hope the property owners do not sit back and let a bunch of snobs cost them control their property.
    My family and I have been visitors of Anna Maria for over 25 years and for most of that 25 years there has always been some faction of island snob groups fighting to keep ANY visitors from enjoying the beautiful beaches.
    Like letting public walkways become overgrown to discourage “visitor” use and when that didn’t work the island snobs voted to severly restrict and limit Anna Maria parking.
    The island snobs don’t mind the money that visitors spend while there but please don’t stay because you simply are not welcome here!

    • Ron says:

      If not for the island ” snobs” you would probably have stopped coming here long ago. It’s the island “snobs” that try to keep the island the way it was, a slice of paradise. In my opinion, you should be upset with the investors and developers for taking advantage of such a unique place just to turn over a buck.

    • becca says:

      Yet, you come back year after year. These citizens you so ruthlessly refer to as “SONBS” are the glue that holds this island together. They pay their taxes, and are the BACKBONE of this community. Why not explore another location, and let the “snobs” live their day to day lives. Thanks, and so long.

  3. shirley says:

    35% of the residents knew when they bought on anna maria city that this was a vacation spot. no one has minded all the revenue these rentals have brought in all these years. people have been renting homes out for over 70 years and now you have a bunch of new commissioners who have to justify their pay. this action will have so many repercussions which will involve restaurant closings, gift shop closings, rental shops closing, etc. etc. i know for a fact that the residents don’t use these businesses. and how is the city going to pay for the thousands of lawsuits that are going to arise out of this. i wouldn’t be surprised if some of the commissioners wouldn’t be sued personally because they are interfering with property owners livelihoods. FLORIDA IS A TOURIST STATE AND THERE ARE TOURIST CITIES NEAR THE SHORE. PERIOD. if the law reads otherwise, CHANGE IT. these commissioners have no idea the financial problems they are creating in people’s lives by changing the rules on rentals that have been allowed for years.

  4. Ken (UK) says:

    We have been coming to AMI for about 7 years now and apart from a couple of years ago when we stayed for a month we stay for about 3 weeks but having read this article this will no longer be possible. I would suggest you market this in the chamber of commerce stating that unless you can manage a months vacation on the island you are not welcome and need to go elsewhere.

  5. Miller says:

    Mr. Chatt is being overly self-serving, protecting his cash flow. His feeling that values will decrease is nonsense. Anna Maria’s attraction for decades has been its residential nature, and that is precisely the intent of the Comprehensive Plan. To retain that will greatly INCREASE home values. Just ask the neighbors of all the “double-wide” rentals in Holmes Beach. Ask them how having virtual motels next door with twin pools is contributing to their quality of life.

    • shirley says:

      miller, you are dreaming if you think your values will increase when more than 50% of real estate goes up for sale – anna maria’s main attraction have been its BEACHES.

  6. Rickdos says:

    so where exactly is the residential zone?

  7. Owner says:

    Congratulations to the commissioner’s for destroying AMI tourism and good luck at next election with owners with Oklahoma, Ohio, Montana, Minnesota and Georgia license plates. All local folks of course. As for me and my Canadian Dollar’s that had offers on 2 properties this week…my bad luck with that. We will miss you and you will miss me. As for ‘local’ property owners, be careful what you ask for, especially 30% property value depreciation. See you next year with my Canadian Dollars.

  8. JOHN says:

    SUE SUE SUE!!!!!!

  9. Ben Hardin says:

    If the over-regulating commissioners do not want to live on a vacation island, they should move inland. Unfortunately, they do not represent the interests of those that support the island. Vacationers and second home owners will end up paying for their ignorance and selfishness.

  10. SRO says:

    Great news!! The people who LIVE in AM full time are getting a chance to be heard and to protect their city. It’s not all about the out of town owners and how much money they can make, it is actually becoming unsafe. When it takes over an hour to get to Pine St from 75th there is a problem. The city was not designed to support the number of people that this mass influx of rentals has created. The infrastructure is not there and will never be able to properly support mass tourism. I am in full support of this limitation on short term rentals. As far as property values, they will not take the hit the fear monger rental owners say they will. Guess what, there are no more beaches being created the last time I checked. These properties will ALWAYS be in demand so let them put their rentals up for sale. The market will be fine and perhaps you will find more full time residents next door instead of a house full of partiers with noise, cars and trash overflowing. Full time residents take back your city!

  11. Tom says:

    Is anyone looking into the possibility that some of the commissioners might have broken the Florida Sunshine state laws by meeting and talking about this privately and not in an open forum?
    Commissioner Woodland was the only one who said that he had just gotten Webb’s 13-page memo and wanted the commission to study the motion until its February meeting.

  12. Sandra D'Amato says:

    Why not turn them into annual rentals? I bet there are a lot of nice families and older people that contribute to the community that would love to rent all year round?? It used to be that way before all the short term rentals moved in.

  13. Mike says:

    We just sent in our rental check for a week in Bradenton Beach. I’ve always enjoyed that end of island. I suppose this may make it more difficult to find a rental for next year.

  14. Molly says:

    When would this go into effect & is there a map of the affected area? We have a reservation for a cottage in May and now I’m worried….

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