State legislation targeting VROs moves forward

Anna Maria Island municipalities are fighting to preserve home-rule in the face of advancing vacation rental bills in the Legislature.

Senate Bill 188, filed by state Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, passed the first subcommittee March 21 and is set to be heard by the community affairs subcommittee April 3, after press time for The Islander.

SB 188 was amended March 21 to read that local governments can adopt and enact ordinances for vacation rentals, but regulations must apply to all residences in the municipality, rental, residence or otherwise.

SB 188 and House Bill 425 initially sought to remove local governments’ right to enforce vacation rental regulations adopted after June 2011 and prohibit adoption of new regulations.

HB 425 passed the second subcommittee in a 9-6 vote March 28 and is now being heard by the commerce committee.

Steube has said he wants uniformity to protect property owners’ rights “across the board.”

The bills, if they become law, would remove parking, noise and occupancy restrictions in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach and would prohibit Bradenton Beach from adopting similar restrictions.

They also would strip the cities of income from VRO certificate programs.

John van Zandt, a longtime Holmes Beach resident and agent with Island Real Estate, said March 30 he agrees with property rights, but those supporting SB 188 and HB 425 are not considering the rights of residential owners.

“Quiet enjoyment is a very important element of property rights,” van Zandt said. “Local communities, in cooperation with rental agencies, have worked out reasonable controls for noise, trash and occupancy that work well for visitors and residents.”

Bradenton Beach Vice Mayor John Chappie said March 29 he is disappointed by lawmakers’ “lack of understanding” regarding the impact of SB 188 and HB 425 on small communities.

“They just don’t have a clue,” Chappie said. “It was actions by the state Legislature in 2011 that put us in this situation and now we are just trying to preserve what we have.”

State law enacted in 2011 prohibited municipalities from regulating vacation rentals beyond the rules and zoning restrictions that existed prior to 2011.

Legislative changes in 2014 gave some regulatory power back to the cities, but they still could not regulate the duration of stay for short-term rentals.

Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach have hired lobbyists to challenge the bills.

The lobbyists are providing weekly reports on the progress of concerning bills.

Additionally, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy and some island residents have visited Tallahassee during the session to speak for home-rule — the power for municipal and county governments to make local regulations.

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