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Date of Issue: August 04, 2005

Commission rejects moratorium on rental licensing

Holmes Beach city commissioners rejected a recommendation from its planning commission for a moratorium on short-term rental licensing at its July 26 workshop.

In an effort to prevent a rush on applications for short-term rental licenses in the single-family R-1, and multi-family R-2 districts, the planning commission recommended that the city commission issue a moratorium, or zoning-in-progress notice, retro-active to June 15.

Sue Normand, planning commission chairperson, told the commission the restriction would allow time for the completion of the planning commission's review of the land development code and update of the comprehensive plan, while "keeping the ‘status quo' of short-term rentals legally licensed in the city."

Normand stated that the planners believe "the city is losing the residential, family character in the R-1 and R-2 districts, and that in limiting rentals in these areas to 30-day minimums, as has already been implemented in the R-1AAA district [Key Royale], it will be a step toward maintaining the residential character of these areas while still allowing tourist rentals of 30 days or more."

Normand pointed out that nightly rentals would still be permitted in the hotel-motel district, seven-day rentals would be permitted in the R-4 district and for condominiums in the R-3 district, as well as legally licensed motels currently in the R-2 district.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore began the commission discussion by noting that although she has always been in favor of rental restrictions, she believes the time to impose them has already passed. She said figures show that of the city's 3,900 parcels only 1,421 are homesteaded.

Commissioner Pat Morton likened the effort to trying to catch a horse running in a field. He stated that the rental limitation would put people out of business and that it wouldn't cause a "ripple effect," but rather a "tidal wave." He said, it would amount to a "major kill for this Island. The taxes are bad enough, it would be suicide to tell them they can't rent for less than 30-days."

The commission has been receiving letters in protest of the planning commission's recommendation since the debate began a month ago, but three residents stepped forward at the work session to offer support.

Resident Al Weidorn questioned whether property owners illegally renting were paying the appropriate taxes and Commissioner Sandy Haas Martens assured him as a member of the tourist tax council that the matter was being looked into.

Weidorn also refuted the idea that a moratorium would necessarily mean people wouldn't be able to visit the Island. "Is that not what a motel is for?"

David Zaccagnino told the commission that he used to live in a residential neighborhood. "I attended the city's visioning process with neighbors that I don't have anymore."

He said the short-term renters light fireworks at night, leave trash and, if he called the police every time problems occur, they wouldn't be available to do their job elsewhere in the city.

"If you look at the statistics, you'll see we're losing children at the school and there won't be enough voters. We'll be serving people who live elsewhere," said Zaccagnino.

Joan Perry, another resident, concurred. She added that the commission was disobeying the comp plan and that if it didn't want to restrict rentals, then attention should be paid to the cost of an increasing need for trash pickup and law enforcement.

"I'm so tired of people making a buck off my hide," Perry said. "My neighborhood is changing, too. There is no call for overnight visits in the R-1 district unless it's family. Why should Key Royale get special treatment?"

The commission, minus Roger Lutz, who was absent, indicated it was a dead issue and would not move the agenda item to a regular meeting.

The planning commission, which met the following Thursday, came to a consensus that it will stand firm on its recommendation. The suggestion to restrict short-term rentals will still be included when it forwards its entire review to the city commission in a few months. Planning Commissioner Mike McCaleb is the only one not in favor of the recommendation. He previously recused himself from the voting process.