Home rule ‘heroes’ honored for taking on Tallahassee

One size does not fit all.

It has become the battle cry of sorts for local government officials across the state who feel their ability to make informed decisions for their community is being hampered by Tallahassee legislators.

The idea that government is at its best and most responsive when closest to constituents and local communities was the founding tenet for home rule. It’s been a guidepost of the state constitution since 1968. In granting home rule, the state gave broad power to local officials by enabling them to make decisions they feel are in the best interest of their residents, as long as those decisions comply with state laws.

But recently legislators have been attempting to pass laws preempting certain powers to the state, thereby preventing municipalities and counties from creating their own ordinances on issues like marijuana dispensaries, guns and vacation rentals.

That didn’t sit well with four local beachside officials, whose advocacy on behalf of their towns and cities was recently acknowledged by the Florida League of Cities with the Home Rule Hero Award.

The honorees include: Deputy Mayor of Indialantic Stu Glass, City Manager of Indian Harbour Beach Mark Ryan, City Manager of Satellite Beach Courtney Barker and Vice Mayor of Satellite Beach Dominick Montanaro.

Allison Payne, manager of advocacy programs and federal affairs for the Florida League of Cities, says they were chosen for being instrumental in voicing their opposition to legislation that would preempt municipalities from having any say in regulating vacation rentals in their neighborhoods.

“Vacation Rentals are not a terrible thing, but they do not belong in residential neighborhoods,” Montanaro said. “People buy homes in neighborhoods expecting a certain quality of life, the Legislature wants uniformity across the state on this issue but we all know that one size does not fit all.”

Satellite Beach has had an ordinance prohibiting them since 2007.

“Large corporations are buying up homes especially in beachside cities and turning them into rentals that sleep anywhere from 15 to 40 people,” Montanaro said.

“Infrastructure in most cities are not adequate to house these type of rentals.”

Indialantic Deputy Mayor Stu Glass agrees and says recently proposed House and Senate bills related to short-term rentals would have resulted in problems for the small beach-town neighborhoods with the influx of short-term transient renters, noise and traffic. “With no two municipalities being the same, a bill that is positive for one municipality may not be beneficial to another or harmful to another,” Glassman said.

Indian Harbour Beach City Manager Mark Ryan says that in addition to having control over vacation rentals, he worked on legislation that would allow municipalities to establish smoke-free zones in public parks around areas such as playgrounds and athletic field grand stands.

“I probably made a half-dozen trips to Tallahassee to testify before various committees in the Florida House, the Florida Senate, and the Florida CRC,” Ryan said. “Sometimes I was afforded the opportunity to speak, other times some or all of the public could not speak on the proposed legislation.”

Statewide, 89 officials were honored as Home Rule Heroes.

Other winners from Brevard County include: Mayor Kathy Meehan, City of Melbourne; John Titkanich, City Manager, City of Cocoa; Commissioner Mike Miller, City of Cocoa Beach.

“Tallahassee should not be interfering in cities’ ability to do what’s best for their residents; government closest to the people is best,” Montanaro said.

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