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.