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Swift action promised against HB short-term rentals

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Holmes Beach Commission Chair Jean Peelen promised swift action would be taken against Anna Maria Vacations, a company using annamaria.com to advertise rental units for less than seven days in the R-2 and R-1 districts.

Commissioners said they have been receiving complaints from residents and followed up with research into the agency’s advertised properties.

According to the city’s land development code, rental units in the R-2 and R-1 districts cannot be rented for less than seven days, but an advertisement on annamaria.com states, “Would you like to vacation on Anna Maria Island but can’t stay seven days? We have some special shorter stays just for you.”

According to the Division of Corporations, Florida Department of State, Anna Maria Vacations is a fictitious business name operated by Florida Gulf Coast Vacation Homes LLC and owned by Joseph Varner.

Peelen said Varner has been cautioned in the past about his rental practices in Holmes Beach. The ads to rent homes for less than seven days appeared in the past, according to Peelen, who said Varner agreed then to remove them.

But the ads began to reappear on annamaria.com, she claims.

However, The Islander reported in the past that website advertising is not regulated by the city, and advertising is not illegal.

Peelen said there also are occupancy issues, noting that one rental with four bedrooms was advertised to sleep 16 people. A report compiled by code enforcement lists eight properties being advertised to sleep more people than what the floor plan filed with the building department allows.

The report also notes that six of Varner’s properties do not have business tax receipts — the city’s licensing method — on file.

Code enforcement concludes there may be “multiple code violations pursuant to this consumer complaint.”

The city claims at least one of Varner’s properties, listed on the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office as a homesteaded residence, is being rented.

A report from the building department also states Varner owns 118 properties in Holmes Beach.

However, Varner disputes that total, saying, “I wish I did.”

“We’ve done the research and it’s all true,” said Peelen. “Code enforcement is on it and action will be taken in the short future. They were told about this last year and they continue to do it. Enforcement will be happening very soon.”

But Varner says “there are so many errors and false accusations, I am not really even sure where to start as it would take a full article to rebut. I have been told by many that Jean Peelwn was going to be ‘coming after me’ and I guess that looks to be true.”

Varner said he’s trying to decide if it’s best to engage an attorney.

“For the two and a half years I have been involved in business on the island, I have seen so much division and hate created by a few people, it is a real shame — and it only looks like it will be getting worse with the departure later this month of a good and reasonable man, David Forbes, in code enforcement,” he said.

Forbes said Varner claims his properties frequently have gaps between rentals that account for the seven days, regardless of whether some guests stay a shorter period or the full seven days.

It’s unclear as to the code, whether the seven days are to be within a calendar week, as many rentals are Saturday to Saturday, and Forbes was unsure who will eventually be cited in the event of a violation; the vacationer, the rental management company or the owner.

One Response to Swift action promised against HB short-term rentals

  1. Nora Schrock says:

    Kudos to Jean Peelen and other Holmes Beach commissioners who have the backbone and integrity to enforce the city codes. The violators are taking advantage of residents and honest businesses who have been following the letter and spirit of the law despite losing customers to pirates like the outfit mentioned in this article. Cite owners, management firms, and tenants – eventually they will take responsibility for their actions!

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