Do private property rights trump the right of privacy?

MILT THOMAS

short term rental committee
Short-Term Rental Committee

In this classic showdown between the desire of real estate investors to maximize profit versus those who want to live in the traditional peace and quiet of suburban neighborhoods, the Indian River Board of County Commissioners must decide if one side deserves preference over the other or whether there is room for compromise.

The Republican-controlled state legislature has already voted on this issue in 2011 and has effectively come down on the side of private property owners, allowing them to operate short-term, vacation rentals, if local governments do not already have an ordinance on the books.

The City of Vero Beach had an ordinance for decades preventing short term rentals in residential neighborhoods, but it has been routinely ignored. In 2013, then Vice Mayor Tracy Carroll and her husband John, who engaged in the practice, challenged that code before the Code Enforcement Board and won by a 3-2 vote. (John Carroll had served previously on the Board with the three who voted in their favor).

After Carroll was voted out of office, the City appealed its own Code Enforcement Board ruling. The one-word court ruling in the case, “Affirmed,” was so ambiguous, the City Council went ahead and strengthened the short term rental regulations by moving enforcement to the police department and raising the fine from $50 a day to $500.

Now the issue has come before the County Commission. On July 14 of this year Commissioners established a Short-Term Rental Advisory Committee to study the issue. They had already approved parking-related regulations for short-term rental operators, but there are still no regulations on the books for short term rentals, even within the broad limits established by state statutes.

So a great deal rests on the makeup of the Short-Term Rental Advisory Committee. The Committee is composed of the following members:

Glenn Powell (appointed by Wesley Davis) is chairman. He owns vacation homes, but has previously corresponded with InsideVero and indicated he has “no tolerance for bad vacation landlords.” Further, “No one should be negatively impacted by their neighbor (whether there for a week, month or twenty years).”

Joe Paladin, Vice Chairman (appointed by Joe Flesher) is a developer and familiar face at County Commission meetings. He has indicated he will treat the subject fairly.

Joel Molinari, Sr (appointed by Tim Zorc), is a pool and spa contractor. At the first Committee meeting he said, “I own rental homes, but not short term rentals. I am particularly interested in less government and more efficient government, and if there’s going to be ordinances I would like them to be very taxpayer friendly and very property owner friendly.”

Alan Curtis (appointed by Peter O’Bryan) is a retired research entomologist with the Indian River County Mosquito District. He was not present or did not speak at the organizational meeting.

Glenn Heran (appointed by Bob Solari) is a CPA and vocal free market advocate as is Commissioner Solari.

Angela Beckley Waldrop is a Member-at-Large, who is a Real Estate Rental Specialist. She was not present or did not speak at the organizational meeting.

Dr. Robert DeWaters, Sr. is the other Member-at-Large, a retired dentist and resident of The Moorings.  He is also a board member of the South Beach Property Owners Association. He lives in The Moorings and does not own any rental property. His concern is short term rental creating problem in many residential districts.

George Bryant is an Alternate Member-at-Large specific to Mr. Dr. DeWaters. He is also a board member of the South Beach Property Owners Association.

At the December 10th meeting, the last before the subject is discussed tomorrow at the County Commission meeting under Tim Zorc’s matters, the Committee’s agenda was to cover fire safety requirements, but evolved into a discussion about regulations in general. Community Development Director Stan Boling explained that there are currently no license requirements in the county for vacation rentals. In addition, the state has no mechanism to monitor its own regulations other than reacting to a complaint, which they may or may not do.

Glenn Heran tried to cut off the discussion until the Committee could study the economic impact of short term rentals and proposed tabling the regulation discussion, indicating there are only one percent of complaints and 99 percent compliance. Heran based his proposal on Boling’s statement that since July 2012, there have only been complaints about 11 properties in the county. Heran’s motion failed 3-3.

Miles Conway, a resident and member of the South Beach Property Owners Association as  well as the Indian River Neighborhood Association, objected, arguing that the short term rental problem is a quality of life issue, not an economic one. “Indian River County has one of the lowest compliance rates in the state – there are 400-600 short term rental properties and only 60 are licensed. The problem is not complaints. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If we did a poll, we would get hundreds of complaints.”

Boling pointed out that even with the 11 known complaints, “We called the state and they aren’t responsive. If we had local requirements, that would be the solution.”

Enforcement is scheduled to be the topic of the Committee’s next meeting. Heran made a motion that economic impact should also be discussed, which was passed by a 4-2 vote.

On tomorrow’s BCC agenda, Commissioner Zorc plans to propose an ordinance governing short term rentals similar to other uses currently governed by the county such as occupancy level, health and safety requirements.

It should be noted that 2015 is the best year ever for tourist tax collections, which does not include, apparently, the majority of rentals in residential communities.

 

2 comments

  1. While on my iPhone, it appears as if scrolled to an earlier issued post and commented within a COVB electric issue post rather than on this one. My first sentence should have contained….either you weren’t there or you simply chose to ignore….Please refer to those comments and contact me if you wish.

    To further clarify my own position on STVRentals: It seems licensing is appropriate for STVRs. The degree of government power, control, oversight (choose your term) is my greatest concern. I have yet to witness merely MORE government make anyone’s life better. Targeted, clear licensing and enforcement which is user friendly to all stakeholders (landlords, tenants, neighbors, etc) and which minimizes lawyer-centric babble and manipulation is needed. Genuine issues are present, no doubt. Dealing with those issues is my reason for being involved. I am to gather information, weigh the information and advise based on that. My goal is to hear from every interested party anywhere on the spectrum with regards to STVRs and give genuine consideration to every point of view. Our neighbors and every taxpayer deserve no less. I am sure of one thing: Not everyone will be content or satisfied, whether in this issue or any other.

  2. I attended the Short Term Advisory Committee meeting (photo: in blue shirt), as member of the public interested in getting some sort of regulations on the books to begin controlling this ‘commercial public lodging establishment’ activity taking place in our residential neighborhoods around Indian River County. Dr. Conway, and Mr. Carter, joined me in trying to get meaningful steps regarding setting occupancy limits on such ‘hotel rooms’, requiring that the fire and safety equipment was installed and checked prior to ‘owner/operator’ renting out to ‘guests’, and asking that septic tanks be scaled to the number of intended occupants. But the committee, after spending most of its time debating Mr. Heran (Solari’s appointment to the committee) on whether to table the discussion of these important regulatory matters—Heran saying that it was far more important to study how economically significant short term rentals were to the property owners bottom line—the committee finally raced through the three issues at hand and rejected all proposed controls, save for ‘requiring’ that a photo be provided to ‘prove’ that fire extinguishers were in the rental rooms. This was the total result of over 2 hrs of discussion in what was obviously intended to whitewash over any proposed controls on short term rental operations. It comes as no surprise, given the composition of the committee, who are largely rental operators, rental managers, and rental owners. As Milt Thomas noted in another report on this committee: Why has “Short term rental proposals and regulations and advice to the BCC” been officially assigned to a group whose primary experience and expertise is profit from short and long term rentals? Obviously, this presents a clear ‘conflict of interest’ in their recommendations. So it comes as no surprise that they don’t see need for scaling up septic tanks to occupancy, or to even establishing occupancy limits on these ‘residential houses’—when hotel and motel rooms have strict limits on number of guests. It makes more profit to rent these houses out to groups to 10-12 people, sleeping on sofas, in the kitchen on cots, etc. Can you say ‘spring break at Daytona?’ The public (aka voters) of IRC are badly served by having such a committee made up of those who stand to profit from MORE short term rentals. In fact, the chairman of the committee, Mr. Glen Powel, openly admits he runs ‘vacation rental’ business. Those in the community that have people coming and going by the week or weekend, with noise, disturbance, etc, are surely helping to enrich the owner/operators of these ‘public transient lodging establishments’ (as defined by Dept. of Business and Prof. Regulation, State of Fla). But do these owner/operators have the right to enrich themselves at that cost to our true neighbors (and voters) right to quiet enjoyment of their own home? Why not let the investor/speculator open a pizza parlor, or gas station, on their residential property? No, zoning is not the enemy that some suggest is ‘big government’ taking over. It is the right of the majority to have a say in how they want to live. Something the current members of the BCC seem to have forgotten. But perhaps campaign contributions from ‘rich businesses’ in return for regulatory favors (such as little or no regulation) trumps the votes and interests of thousands of little citizens? That would be something to worry about…

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