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Two Central Beach boarding houses may soon be shut down by Vero Council

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of June 27, 2013)

A Vero woman who runs two Central Beach boarding houses soon could be out of business if a plan being considered by the city's Planning and Zoning Board is approved by the City Council.

Irene "Renee" Snyder configured her two houses into essentially private apartments consisting of roughly 12-by-14 foot bedrooms where a tenant can also cook, store food, and make coffee.

Snyder continues to advertise for roommates on Craig’s List in spite of being watched by city officials who reacted this spring to the numerous complaints from neighbors of the houses on Banyan Road and Shore Drive.

The city now is considering changing the code to define a boarding house as a dwelling where more than one room or suite is offered for use by one or more people for sleeping or other living accommodations.

“That’s fantastic,” said Frank Catania, a Banyan Road resident. He hired the beachside law office of Michael O’Haire to nudge the city into finally addressing an issue that has gone on for years.

“I’m sure the neighbors are going to be quite happy,” Catania said.

The proposed change, said City of Vero Beach Planning Director Tim McGarry, will allow elderly residents to have a live-in caregiver but could crimp Snyder’s boarding house business. 

Snyder has tried to argue her homes are no different than many other island properties because each one has a main kitchen and a family room.

Not so, say Catania and fellow neighbor Harry Atwood.

Atwood told the Planning and Zoning Board earlier this month that Snyder’s business is a detriment to the property values in Central Beach when he urged board members to enforce or strengthen the code of what is permissible in city residential areas. He said the constant flow of ever-changing tenants makes building a sense of neighborhood identity difficult.

“It’s not like you get to know your neighbors,” Atwood said.

Snyder continues to advertise her rooms. Earlier this month, she posted multiple photos online that show the kitchen, desk and sleeping areas of what was once a guest bedroom at her Shore Drive home. Snyder shared that home with several male renters.

 In the most recent ads, Snyder noted that each room has a lock and key entrance. She also mentioned there is an outdoor shower so tenants can wash off after coming back from the beach, but no maid service. She offered the room for $620 a month.

City officials say Snyder’s two properties violate existing codes, but they were reluctant to go after to her, saying the current codes are weak.

City codes currently consider a boarding house to be any dwelling with more than three unrelated individuals living together. Such a living arrangement is not allowed within single-family residential areas, but city officials say the code is antiquated and may not stand up to a legal challenge today.

City officials essentially told Snyder she needed to stop offering weekly rentals in her Craig's List advertisements. They also told her she should create long-term leases for her tenants. 

Those suggestions, however, didn’t address the fact that the Shore Drive and Banyan Road houses are being operated as boarding houses. The changes under consideration will do that.

McGarry admitted that some people bent on renting out their rooms may find ways around the proposed code so he has proposed one another change: Not allowing long-term parking in yards.  “This gives us more teeth,” McGarry said.

On any given day at Snyder’s Banyan Road home, three to four cars are parked in the yard.

McGarry said he already asked his staff to advise Snyder her days of renting out multiple rooms at her Central Beach homes may be coming to an end.