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Date of Issue: August 20, 2008

Commission to revisit rental rule

Multiple proposed amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan prompted no debate, but a previous land-use issue sent the Holmes Beach commission’s Aug. 12 meeting into overtime.

An unscheduled discussion on a minimum 30-day rental restriction in the city’s low-density, single-family residential zone known as R-1 concluded with a commission consensus to revisit the issue.

“We’re not going to do it right away,” said Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens, adding she is not eager to revisit the commission-approved rule on rentals in single-family residential areas.

The rule, part of an update to the city’s land development code approved in 2007, sets the minimum rental in an R-1 zone at 30 days, not seven days as previously allowed. The rule does provide for a phasing out of seven-day rentals over 10 years.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino opened the debate on the rental restriction during the commission’s work session.

“Our economy is getting beat up and beat up,” Zaccagnino said, calling for the commission to reconsider the 30-day minimum. “Are we trying to drive business off the Island? You can’t have fireworks. You can’t eat outdoors. You can’t rent the way you’ve rented for 30 years. This is just crazy.”

Haas-Martens said that during previous debate over rentals in R-1 zones, the city “had a deluge of people calling and saying, ‘We don’t want seven days.’… We discussed it at length.”

Planning consultant Bill Brisson recalled that at one time the city also considered setting a 30-day minimum in medium-density R-2 zones. The commission eventually decided just to set the 30-day limit in R-1 “because there were not that many units. It was a relatively small number in the R-1, close to 20 or something.… But R-2 had a massive number of rentals,” he said.

Brisson added that some properties probably are or were rented for a week in R-1 zones without licenses, which are required by the city.

After some discussion at the dais, commissioners heard from several citizens.

Carol Whitmore, a county commissioner and former mayor of the city, said the 30-day minimum came too late, resulting in more harm than good.

“We missed the opportunity to control rentals on the Island,” she said.

Don Schroder of Re/Max Gulfstream Realty suggested the city revisit the restriction and perhaps try to apply it to certain subdivisions, as it did in Key Royale.

“We don’t want to be another Longboat Key,” said Barry Gould of Island Vacation Properties. “We’re finding that people are withdrawing from coming to the Island because of some of the expense.”

Gould said some homeowners rely on rental income to help pay mortgages and taxes and urged the commission to revisit the 30-day restriction.

Commissioners also heard from Ken Gerry of White Sands Beach Resort, who said the 30-day minimum in R-1 helped protect his business.

White Sands, 6504 Gulf Drive, is a commercial property and thus has much higher expenses to provide lodging to vacationers, Gerry said.

“We are the weekly rental place,” he said. “We bought into the area to be a weekly rental. When you buy in a residential area, you are supposed to be residential.”

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, listening to the discussion, said, “I was not in favor of the 30 days. I made that comment the night you all voted for it.… But what you all need to do is decide whether you want to revisit this.”

“I’m ready to revisit this in a heartbeat,” Zaccagnino said. “We need to be flexible enough to look at our decision and rethink it.… We have people that are struggling out here.”

Commissioners Pat Morton and Pat Geyer agreed to revisit the issue.

“Let the citizens come in and say, give them another say,” Morton said.

Haas-Martens said she didn’t want to place the issue on an agenda until the fall because a number of citizens were still on summer break.

“You can have every real estate agent in town come in, but it wouldn’t be fair to all the citizens out of town,” she said.

During the regular meeting Aug. 12, the commission voted 4-0 to transmit amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan to the state for review. Commissioner John Monetti was absent.

The changes to the comp plan are based on the previously approved evaluation appraisal report and include amendments to the plan’s land use, housing, transportation, infrastructure and recreation, conservation and coastal management elements.

One of the more significant changes involves establishing a mixed-use overlay in the commercial area generally referred to as downtown Holmes Beach. The provision allows for a blend of commercial and residential uses, with commercial operations on the first floor of a building and residential on the second and third floors.

During its review, the planning board agreed to reduce the mixed-use overlay district, which originally covered all property designated as commercial on the future land-use map.

In the transportation element, a proposed amended map shows Key Royale Drive as a two-lane, major roadway to make the street eligible for improvements under the local-option 5-cent gas tax.

In the housing element, the planning board attempted to address the state’s requirement that comp plans deal with affordable housing.

The recreation and open-space element includes a proposed map showing shorelines and waterways, a new requirement from the state.

The commission was expected on Aug. 19 to hold a second reading on the ordinance authorizing the transmittal of the plan.

“Then it goes to the state,” Brisson said, adding, “I have no doubt they will find something.”

Brisson said the state would take 60 days to review the amendments and then the city would take 60 days to make any needed changes.


In the zone…

Low-density residential: R-1 is intended to ensure the maintenance of low-density, single-family residential neighborhoods. Resort housing involving occupancy for periods of less than 30 days is prohibited. The maximum height in R-1 is 36 feet, measured from the crown of the abutting road at the front center of the property to the highest point of the roof. The zone allows for single-family detached dwellings, accessory uses, family day care, foster care when approved, essential services, home occupations, community residential homes and foster care facilities when approved as a special exception.

Medium-density residential: R-2 is intended to recognize the residential development found in most of the city. Allows for an assortment of dwelling types and styles. Uses include single-family, two-family and multiple family dwellings. community residential and day care, home occupations, essential services. Resort housing is permitted provided the number of overnight occupants does not exceed six people or two people per bedroom, whichever is greater. Certain nonresidential uses are permitted with special exception.