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dHome vacation rental bill approved in Senate, now in House

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Large vacation rentals such as these homes on Magnolia Avenue in Anna Maria, have been criticized by city officials. Islander File Photo

Some island elected officials are crossing their fingers, hoping for news from the Capitol.

They’re awaiting word from Tallahassee on the fate of a bill that would repeal a 2011 statute that they say took away a local government’s right to further regulate vacation rentals beyond what ordinances were in place June 1, 2011.

The review of HB307 is on the floor of the House, and is expected to come to a vote before the end of the legislative session May 2.

According to the Florida Legislative website, HB307 “removes the preemption to the state for the regulation of vacation rentals. Local governments may regulate vacation rentals, provided those regulations do not prohibit vacation rentals or restrict the duration or frequency of vacation rentals.”

Any local ordinances that existed on or before June 1, 2011, are retained according to the website.

A companion bill in the Senate, SB356, has passed. It includes an amendment to the original bill that limits local governments from restricting vacation rentals to more than a minimum seven-day stay.

Kathleen Galea of Sen. Bill Galvano’s office, R-Bradenton, said the House would likely take up the Senate’s version of the bill — although, she added, it is “subject to change.” Galvano voted for SB356.

“I am hopeful that the House will take the Senate position, which includes the compromise language. We need to resolve this issue and move forward,” he said.

The final versions of the bills remove “the preemption preventing local laws, ordinances, or regulations from regulating the use of vacation rentals based solely on their classification, use, or occupancy, etc.,” the website states.

HB307 was approved by three House committees before heading for its second reading.

The furor among municipal officials over the original bill — HB883 — began in 2011 as local governments realized they could not pass new ordinances regulating just the vacation rental industry.

“That bill took away home rule,” said Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn. “It really put us in a bind to deal with vacation rental issues.”

The mayor said she is “cautiously optimistic” HB307 would pass. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed.”

Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen said “I’m very optimistic it will pass. Without the ability to regulate the industry, we can’t even require fire extinguishers at a vacation rental without requiring them for every single-family home. Our primary concern is the safety and welfare of visitors and residents.”

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon also said he favors passage of the bill.

“We need to have home rule returned to the local governments,” he said.

Shearon said his city does not have similar vacation rental issues to Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.

“We’re mostly condominium complexes and resorts, but we do have a few vacation rental homes,” he said.

The bill repealing HB883 was introduced by state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.

Peelen and SueLynn went to the Florida League of Cities to enlist its support.

The Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association has lobbied against HB307, saying it would negatively affect tourism, Florida’s No. 1 industry.

 

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