Anna Maria’s city commission may have a difficult time getting a favorable judicial ruling that its hotel/motel ordinance can be used to limit vacation home rentals.
City code enforcement officers Gerry Rathvon and Diane Sacca already have ruled on a complaint against a vacation rental at 505 Magnolia Ave., stating in an Aug. 7 letter that “there is no sign of this four bedroom (home) with attached private baths being used as a hotel.”
After receiving the code enforcement determination, Commission Chair Chuck Webb, who made the complaint, asked commissioners at their Sept. 12 meeting if they wanted to seek a judicial ruling that the ordinance does apply. The commission voted 4-1 to proceed, but city attorney Jim Dye said the process could take 9-16 months, and the commission would have to identify an offending property to make its case.
Dye said the process would require:
• A code enforcement citation.
• An appeal of the citation to the city’s special magistrate.
• An appeal to the circuit court if the special magistrate rules against the city.
Meanwhile, attorney Scott Rudacille of the Bradenton law firm of Blalock Walters told the commission he would defend his vacation property owner clients in Anna Maria on any ruling on the matter.
The notice by Rathvon and Sacca on Webb’s Magnolia Avenue complaint includes the description of a motel, which is, according to Florida statutes, “any public lodging establishment which offers rental units with an exit to the outside from each unit, daily or weekly rates, off-street parking for each unit and a central office on the property with specified hours of operation.”
When comparing the statute to the city’s hotel/motel ordinance, Rathvon and Sacca determined the city could “not prove that this property is being used as anything other than a residential property rental.”
Commissioner Gene Aubry cast the lone vote against seeking a judicial review, calling it “frivolous.”
But the city already approved moving forward to establish its test case. The subject is expected to be on the commission’s agenda for the 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, meeting at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.