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AM chairman targets ‘problem’ vacation rentals

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Most Anna Maria vacation rental owners and managers can breathe a sigh of relief.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb previously introduced his plan to obtain judicial review of the city’s hotel/motel ordinance to include vacation home rentals with a goal of limiting use of residential homes as short-term accommodations.

A 4-1 majority of commissioners agreed that he should gather and present documentation to proceed.

However, at the Sept. 26 city meeting, Webb explained he only wants to use the ordinance to control “problem rentals.”

If the city obtains a favorable court ruling, Webb said, the city could terminate the license of rental properties that continually cause “problems” for other people looking for peace and quiet enjoyment of their homes.

He said he would have all the information on the problem vacation rentals he’s targeting for an Oct. 10 commission meeting.

Webb said there are sufficient code enforcement complaints against a few rentals — including complaints he made against a rental property on Magnolia Avenue near his residence — as well as calls to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies about loud noise at rentals.

Webb made a code complaint in August against a Magnolia Avenue vacation rental, but code enforcement officers Gerry Rathvon and Diane Sacca found no violation, stating in a letter to Webb the state definition of a motel does not apply to vacation homes.

Webb said he is not looking to bring action against vacation property managers and owners who follow best practices.

“But we have to do something,” Webb said. Too many residents have complained to the city about rental properties where, apparently, the owner or manager hasn’t bothered to enforce the best practices, he said.

“The whole purpose is to find out what our ordinance says,” Webb said. He suggested the city could file a direct action suit that would bypass the code enforcement process and proceed directly to circuit court.

“I’m not against vacation rentals, the 99 percent that use best practices,” he said.

“I have always supported the business community, but some of our rentals have gotten away from the traditional Florida rental,” Webb said.

The owners of those rentals would be the defendants in the court action proposed by Webb.

“Doing nothing is not acceptable,” he added.

Commissioners would still have to approve any lawsuit against the property owners.

In other business, commissioners continued the final hearing for the historical preservation ordinance to Oct. 10 to allow revisions.

SueLynn said she met with Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione and county administrator Ed Hunzeker and a suggestion was made about the city incorporating the BACVB brand into the city website.

Commissioner Gene Aubry responded, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “And they do so much for us.”

SueLynn said her reaction to the request was not positive and talks are continuing.

She said Anna Maria doesn’t need more marketing.

“If anything,” she said, the BACVB should “market us as laid-back Florida and we want families here.”

Commissioner Doug Copeland received approval to seek a grant to remove invasive plants from Gulffront Park — the beachfront area that runs south from Magnolia Avenue seaward of Gulf Boulevard and a public sidewalk.

Commissioners also approved a first reading of a measure to rezone the city-owned lots on Pine Avenue from retail-office-residential to public recreation area and approved changing the comprehensive plan to reflect the anticipated zoning change.

2 Responses to AM chairman targets ‘problem’ vacation rentals

  1. Ben Hardin says:

    Seems like a civil rights violation case may be brewing against Webb and the commission. They should proceed with caution.

  2. Chris Arendt says:

    Agreed, they are following in the footsteps of a lot of governmental whiners these days looking to impose more and more laws instead of enforcing the ones already on the books. There are cases of cranky neighbors who complain regardless of who is renting the property out and how quiet they are or even if children are playing in the pool in the afternoon. Police have been called, found no ordinances being broken and left. They better be sure they are going after rentals that are breaking laws or ordinances.

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