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Vero gets no help on regulating vacation rentals

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of May 8, 2014)

What started out as an effort to repeal a bad 2011 state law and restore to cities and counties authority to once again regulate the short-term vacation rental of homes in residential neighborhoods ended up with passage of yet another meaningless, watered-down bill by the Florida Legislature.

“The bill that was passed provides no regulatory authority greater than we already had with regard to vacation rentals,” said Vero Beach City Manager Jim O’Connor. “It makes them (vacation rentals) a protected class standing outside of our zoning regulations.”

As a result, Vero Beach is in no better position to protect its residential neighborhoods than it was before the start of the legislative session.

The bill passed the House 90 to 27 and the Senate 32 to 2. Rep. Debbie Mayfield and Sen. Thad Altman voted for the bill despite the fact that it does nothing for Vero. Sen. Joe Negron did not vote.

While the final bill authorizes local governments to adopt ordinances addressing parking, noise and other issues often associated with vacation rentals, it bars local government from regulating the duration that a home can be rented.

Without the power to prevent a home from being rented out every night, every weekend or every week to a different set of tenants, it’s a pretty toothless bill.

“The latest version of the bill is a compromise between cities and counties, which want to curb raucous parties in residential areas, and the vacation rental industry, which fears onerous restrictions on the industry,” the Florida Current, an online legislative publication, stated.

Locally, the Indian River Neighborhood Association had urged a full repeal of the 2011 law pre-empting the regulation of vacation rentals to the state, so its members are not celebrating this severely watered-down bill.

“The IRNA is disappointed that the state legislature refused to return to home rule the right of local jurisdictions to prohibit short term rentals in established residential neighborhoods. Thankfully the grandfathering of previously enacted restrictions, such as those adopted by the City of Vero Beach, was not changed,” said IRNA Executive Director Dan Lamson.

Meanwhile, the City of Vero Beach is still litigating an appeal of an August ruling of its own Code Enforcement Board which said the city’s ordinance is too vague to be enforced.

The code board was deciding whether or not then Vice Mayor Tracy Carroll and her husband John should have to pay a $50 fine for renting out their Camelia Lane home in Central Beach by the week to vacationers.

The citation to the Carrolls had been based on the city’s ordinance against short-term rentals which was grandfathered in by the state law.  While this ordinance is still on the books, the legal case centers on whether it is enforceable.