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Date of Issue: February 12, 2009

Short-term occupancy is lingering issue

On background...
When the city updated its land-development code, the update included a revision for the low-density, single-family residential zones known as R-1. A rental restriction was amended to eliminate seven-day rentals and require minimum rentals of 30 days, with a 10-year phase-out period for licensed rentals.

In the future land-use section under "Low Density Residential," the LDC states, "Resort housing involving occupancy for periods of less than 30 days is prohibited." A 30-day restriction also applies in Key Royale, zoned R-1AA.

Elsewhere in the city in areas zoned R-2, R-3 and R-4, a seven-day minimum is the rule.

There are pockets of R-1 zoning around Holmes Beach, but the bulk of R-1 is from 66th Street north to the city limits and east of Marina Drive.

The question of how short the short-term occupancy period should be in Holmes Beach’s residential neighborhoods is a lingering issue.

The city has revisited the issue repeatedly over the years.

Now Holmes Beach commissioners — with a lot of input from residents and real estate professionals — are taking another look at whether the city should continue to limit short-term resort rentals to no less than 30 days in low-density, single-family R-1 zoning areas.

The previous allowance in the R-1 was no less than seven days, and some licensed rentals continue to be occupied for seven days under a 10-year grace period.

But there are not enough seven-day rentals, according to a number of real estate agents in the area, who, as the economy spiraled downward last fall, began calling for a more tolerant rental rule.

City commissioners agreed to take another look, and hear more debate and discussion.

Commissioners were expected to continue discussion of the rental restriction during a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 10.

At a Jan. 27 commission meeting, several people suggested looking at how other communities address the matter.

Cities from California to Florida, Michigan to Hawaii have dealt with rental policies in recent years. The issue gained national attention when the Obama family rented a home for a Hawaiian vacation after the Nov. 4 election — it was a legal occupancy.

In some locations, debate has flared up and lawsuits have been filed over efforts to curb even the long-term renting of residential property. But in most locations, as is the case in Holmes Beach, the debate has been over short-term rentals.

Short-term rentals was a topic of debate for years in Cannon Beach, Ore., before the city council enacted an ordinance that allowed for 92 transient rentals to operate at any given time with a license.

In Santa Fe, N.M., the city council voted in 2007 to allow short-term rentals in residential districts provided that property owners pay a $1,000 annual permit fee and restrict rental of a property to 17 times a year.

The National Association of Rentals, in a guide on the subject, identifies the motivation for restricting short-term rentals, as well as the benefits of encouraging short-term rentals.

The motivation behind a restriction is that short-term rentals are said to increase noise and traffic, reduce housing stock available to those who live and work in a community and creates unfair competition for licensed resorts, according to the NAR.

Short-term rentals, however, can promote tourism, generate revenue for a community and government and defray costs of a second home, according to NAR.

A survey of Florida municipalities found a range of regulations regarding rentals, some with policies stricter than Holmes Beach’s and some with more relaxed approaches.

Cape Coral’s restriction allows for rentals of no less than seven days.

In Daytona Beach, rentals in R-1 zones are restricted to no less than six months.

The city’s policy, according to Daytona Beach spokesperson Susan Cerbone, follows “state statutes that requires six month and one day to be considered long-term and anything less than that is considered short-term and is considered tourist accommodations and is commercial.”

Madeira Beach in Pinellas County amended its regulations about two years ago. Short-term rentals are restricted in both R-1 and R-2 areas of the city. Rentals in the low-density, single-family R-1 district cannot be less than six months and rentals in the multi-family residential R-2 district cannot be less than three months.

The city of Punta Gorda in Charlotte County does not regulate the length of time a residential dwelling can be rented, according to city zoning coordinator Lisa Hannon.

Bonita Springs in Lee County also does not regulate the length of time a residential dwelling can be rented, although the city requires annual inspections of rentals and collects a $100 fee that is “aggressively pursued by code enforcement,” according to city manager Gary A. Price.

Another city that does not impose a time restriction on rentals is Bradenton Beach.

“We really don’t regulate it here,” said building official Steve Gilbert. “If you are renting, you have to have a business tax license from the city.… If you are renting out a single-family home and you haven’t registered with the state and you haven’t gotten your business tax license, you are in violation.”

Gilbert added that he didn’t know if a time-restriction was something Bradenton Beach wanted to consider.

Planning and zoning board chair Rick Bisio said he didn’t know what citizen interest there might be in the issue, but he indicated a personal interest on some limit for some residential neighborhoods.

“I think there has to be some part of our community, some part of Bradenton Beach, where people live,” Bisio said. “It doesn’t have to be the whole city, but someplace … where people are not subjected to the constant in and out.”