“Dr. Conway then brought up the Monroe County vacation rental regulations, which are considered the most effective and complete. They were recommended to the Committee for review in a resolution forwarded by Commissioner O’Bryan and approved by Commissioners Davis and Zorc, but voted against by Commissioner Flescher and Commission Chairman Solari. They were never discussed in the Committee.”
Community Development Director Stan Boling presented the disputed Short Term Rental Advisory Committee results to County Commissioners on Tuesday. The Committee had been formed last fall to develop and recommend regulations governing vacation rentals of less than 30 days. This has become an increasingly thorny issue since 2011 when the State Legislature decided short term rental properties could be located anywhere and local governments could not do anything further to prevent them. That legislation opened the door for transient rental properties in otherwise residential neighborhoods.
Boling’s presentation at the Tuesday BCC meeting was intended for informational purposes, giving Commissioners an opportunity to review the results before sending them on to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a land use perspective.
Boling explained that the only exception to the Legislature’s decision was in local communities where such local regulations were already in force. The City of Vero Beach already had regulations prohibiting short term rentals in residential areas. Several operators tried to change that prohibition, including City Councilman at the time, Tracy Carroll (she then lost her bid for re-election). The City’s jregulations were then strengthened and are in effect today.
According to Boling in his presentation Tuesday, “The County also had regulations from the 1980s until 2012 treating vacation rentals the same as hotel or lodging facilities. But the Commission in 2012 decided to “clarify” the regulations so as not to treat vacation rentals as lodging or hotels, but as single family homes.”
That brought the county more in line with state regulations, but it opened the door for problems that the City of Vero Beach had avoided.
When several prominent homeowner groups voiced concern that this change in the county code would damage the character and “quiet enjoyment” of residential neighborhoods by introducing for-profit lodging establishments, the Commission decided to establish the Short Term Rental Advisory Committee.
The Committee was chaired by Glenn Powell, who owns and operates rental properties and has been a longtime advocate of vacation rentals. The other six members included a real estate rental specialist and two anti-regulation advocates. Residential homeowners had no formal voice on the Committee, but three regular attendees at the meetings – Dr. Miles Conway, David Hunter and Carter Taylor – represented the South Beach Property Owners Association and Indian River Neighborhood Association. The Committee met once a month for six months in sessions often marked by heated disagreements between committee members and the three representatives. (All sessions were videotaped and can be viewed on the Indian River County website.)
While the State Legislature had allowed vacation rental operators to do business in residential neighborhoods, local governments could still adopt regulations about how those businesses operated. At Tuesday’s Commission meeting, Stan Boling presented the Committee’s proposed regulations for discussion purposes only. They included:
- Mandatory licensing by the State and County.
- Proof of a local tourist tax account, verification of fire protection items, acknowledgement of regulations on parking and events, noise regulations and posting of a good neighbor policy in the vacation unit.
- Inspections of each rental unit by a code enforcement officer before licenses could be issued or renewed.
- Time limit of three years on a license and another on-site inspection before renewal.
- An occupancy limit of two adults per bedroom plus two extra people per household.
- Up to date management contact information.
- Stating their license number and number of bedrooms in any advertisement for the unit being offered.
- A list of fines and citations if those regulations were not carried out.
Whether or not these recommended regulations or some variation of them are ultimately enacted will not be known until they are reviewed by P&Z, then voted on by the Commission.
When the meeting was opened for public comment, the first speaker was oft-criticized Committee Chairman Glenn Powell, who spoke at length about his handling of the Committee in spite of three admonitions by Commission Chairman Bob Solari to stay on topic and not give a history lesson.
The next speaker was South Beach Property Owner’s president, George Lamborn, who voiced his objection to the Committee’s finding because the 99 percent of property owners in this County who only wanted the quiet enjoyment of their homes and neighborhoods were not represented, but instead the Committee was dominated by short term rental business people and advocates of fewer business regulations.
Colleen Rosenbaum, a real estate agent, vacation home owner, and frequent audience participant at Committee meetings, defended their work and her ten years of successful experience operating a vacation rental in The Moorings. Commissioner O’Bryan did ask her if she had a license and she said yes. (He did not ask when she obtained one, however.)
The final speaker was Dr. Miles Conway, an outspoken critic of the Committee’s proceedings. He responded to a question posed earlier by Commissioner O’Bryan of what else we should be doing in addition to the Committee and staff recommendations. He then listed ten specific objections related to the level of due diligence on which many of the recommendations were based. “We will present (to P&Z and then the Commission) the statistics, the hard fact evidence and corroborating evidence associated with compliance, licensing, all the data you will need that didn’t make it to this Committee…”
Dr. Conway then brought up the Monroe County vacation rental regulations, which are considered the most effective and complete. They were recommended to the Committee for review in a resolution forwarded by Commissioner O’Bryan and approved by Commissioners Davis and Zorc, but voted against by Commissioner Flescher and Commission Chairman Solari. They were never discussed in the Committee.
Commissioners made several suggestions and then voted 5-0 to send the Committee recommendations on to Planning and Zoning. The next scheduled P&Z meeting is Thursday, April 28.