Fretting over growth of short-term rentals

Now that state legislators have apparently stalled on taking the lead on new rules for short-term rentals, beachside cities are planning their next moves in the ongoing struggle against the takeover by the “hotels next door.’’

With the rise of popular rental websites like Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) and AirBnB, it is easier to advertise and rent, causing an exponential rise over the last four years in the number of properties used as short-term rentals in Florida.

However, the main concern for Brevard homeowners was a recent warning by Satellite Beach officials and others of outside firms contacting residents to purchase their homes to add to their stock of vacation rentals. The homes would operate short-term rentals full time, which could add to parking and traffic problems, cause noise complaints and threaten the balance of city services.

“This is their gold mine to them. They don’t care about your community, your standards or the people that live next door. They care about making money,” said Melbourne Beach Town Manager Robert Daniels.

While the Legislature seeks but remains unsuccessful in taking over the authority to regulate short-term rentals, Florida cities fall into two categories: those fortunate enough to have had an ordinance in place prior to 2011 (Satellite Beach, Indialantic), and those without specific regulations in place (Indian Harbour Beach, Melbourne Beach), who in essence are left with very little authority over short-term rentals.

Satellite Beach allows short-term rentals, but only of over 30 days on the east side of SR A1A in all properties zoned RM-3 (primarily condominiums).

Addressing concerns that those rules may not continue to be grandfathered in, the Satellite Beach City Council is working on including a referendum question on the November ballot to strengthen its position against vacation rentals.

Indialantic allows vacation rentals in its tourist district, on the east side of SR A1A. Rentals on the west side of A1A are prohibited from short-term rentals and can face fines of up to $250 per day, said Indialantic Town Manager Christopher Chinault.

“We have people that we’ve notified. They’ve complained but they have come into compliance. People will point them out as being promoted as a vacation rental and we have to go after them,’’ he said.

Indian Harbour Beach had intended to pass an ordinance to identify and regulate short-term rentals, but that effort was put on hold pending consideration of the issue by the state Legislature. Melbourne Beach Town Council also is waiting to see what the state Legislature will come up with before addressing the issue on a local level, said Town Manager Robert Daniels. The town currently allows rentals but only in its multi-family districts.

“It is a violation of our zoning unless it is in a multi-family district, and that’s where something like that should be, instead of in a single-family district where people pay good money for their homes there. A few years ago, nobody ever heard of vacation rentals being this popular,” Daniels said.

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