Property owners win at County Commission

MILT THOMASbcc 6-21

I’m not one for sports metaphors, but Indian River County residential homeowners – represented by the South Beach Property Owners Association (SBPOA) and Indian River Neighborhood Association (IRNA) – are now the Cleveland Cavaliers of the short term rental championship. After being subverted by County Commission Chairman Bob Solari, derided and ignored by his Short Term Vacation Rental Advisory Committee and losing to the Planning & Zoning Commission, these outspoken and engaged citizen groups won a major victory at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting. They unexpectedly reversed several key positions that had been recommended by the committee, P&Z and county staff.

  1. Licensing

The committee had recommended a three-year license, Chairman Glenn Powell’s majority (Glenn Heran and Joel Molinari, both limited regulation advocates, Angela Waldrop Realtor, Powell a short term rental operator) arguing that yearly renewal was too often. Staff and Planning & Zoning agreed. The SBPOA recommended one year licenses since that is what the State of Florida requires, adding that local regulations can be more stringent, but not less. The BCC decided to keep it at three years; however, if short term rental operators failed to renew the state license annually, the county license would be revoked. The fee for a county business short term rental operator license was set at $250.

  1. Noise

The committee, P&Z and staff felt a noise ordinance was difficult to enforce, deciding to keep existing regulations in place. They would require neighbors to prove a violation. The SBPOA had recommended banning all outdoor amplified music. The BCC agreed to the ban with a review in one year.

  1. Occupancy

The committee, P&Z and staff agreed on a limit of two persons per bedroom plus two or septic tank limits, whichever was lower. The SBPOA recommended a maximum of ten persons per household. BCC agreed to a maximum of ten going forward. Existing homes would be grandfathered in at two occupants per room plus two. In both cases, septic tank limits would take effect if less than ten.

  1. Fines

The schedule of fines recommended in final form by staff were to take effect December 2016 with Deputy County Attorney Bill DeBraal recommended occupancy limits be phased in over the next six years. SBPOA argued they fines needed to take effect immediately to prevent operators from soliciting new contracts between now and then. BCC decided that all new contracts written as of today would reflect the new regulations. Any so-called “contract impairment” claims on contracts signed before today had to be filed by December 1, 2016.

The subject of tangible personal property taxes, which apply to the physical assets of any business, was not discussed at any level – committee, P&Z, staff or the BCC. SBPOA president, Dr. Miles Conway, brought it up during public input at this meeting, saying staff had informed Powell in an exchange of emails early in committee proceedings, but never discussed it again. In his presentation to the BCC, Dr. Conway recommended payment of these taxes as requirement for obtaining a rental license.

Staff had informed Powell about these taxes early in the committee’s tenure in an exchange of emails, according to Dr. Conway, but no action was taken. No action was taken today either. Also according to the Property Appraiser’s office, they could find no record that committee members Powell and Heran have filed tangible personal property tax returns for the rental properties they own (only Powell rents short term) going back to 2012.

Also according to the Property Appraiser’s office, they searched the records for Mitch Dudek, whose name has come up frequently during committee and subsequent meetings and found that he owns five rental properties, but they could only find one on which tangible personal property tax return was filed. Dudek lives next door to Dr. Conway, who has complained frequently about noise and generally disruptive behavior coming from the Dudek home, which operates as a vacation rental business.

Dudek’s attorney, Barry Segal, attended the BCC meeting and spoke on his behalf of his client. Segal and Deputy County Attorney Bill DeBraal both serve on the Indian River County Bar Association board of directors. After public comment was closed Tuesday, Segal spoke privately to DeBraal during discussion of the noise ordinance. They were also seen speaking privately during an earlier BCC meeting when rentals were being discussed.

The subject of transferability did not come up as it relates to short term rental operators grandfathered in under the occupancy regulations. Since regulations and permits go with the house and not the owner, what happens if the owner sells? Will the new owner be limited to ten occupants or, in the case of a six bedroom home, will they be allowed to have 14 occupants?

One commissioner who could directly benefit from his change of heart about short term rentals is Chairman Bob Solari, who is running for re-election. Solari has been sharply criticized by South Beach property owners for what they felt was his part in allowing rental operators into residential neighborhoods. In this BCC meeting Solari championed the interests and concerns of 99% of residential homeowners who do not seek to rent out their homes to vacationers.

There are still other issues with short term rentals to be addressed, such as transferability and tangible personal property taxes. InsideVero will keep readers posted as they arise.

5 comments

  1. The Indian River County Commission meets during work hours. I’m convinced it’s by design to ensure that the few citizens who have a real job can’t attend. Had I been able to attend on Tuesday, this is the statement I would’ve made:

    Commissioners,
    My name is Jose Lambiet and I am a resident of Unincorporated Indian River County.
    This is my request that you allow the residents of Unincorporated Indian River County to continue to live in peace, un-encumbered by the presence next door or two doors down of businesses known as short-term rentals.
    Because, Commissioners, this is really what we’re talking about here.
    Businesses operating often illegally and unscathed in the heart of residential family neighborhoods.
    We fully understand that the state legislature has tied your hands, even if this commission was a willing victim.
    But through minor new regulations and the enforcement of existing ordinances, residents and the businesses next door could find a way to co-exist.
    First, there are the existing ordinances. Short-term rentals infringe on zoning laws that mandate that residential neighborhoods to remain residential neighborhoods.
    If my neighbor rents to strangers for a weekend, then maybe I should open a grocery store in my garage.
    Short-term rentals must be monitored by county authorities to follow existing ordinances that, so far, you have refused to enforce.

    … more below

  2. Business licenses? Do these weekend rentals have any? They need one, you know.
    Handicap access? Since these are business, they must be made handicapped accessible, just like any hotel or properly registered b&b. Are they? Who’s checking?
    Smoke monitors and anti-fire measure. Are they up to code? You do not want 10 tourists from Kansas killed in an unlicensed Airbnb business in Indian River County. If something like that were to happen, I hope you understand that reporters from around the nation will descend on this county and will embarrass you by exposing the lawlessness of short-term rentals.
    Health inspection? Are the rooms or homes clean, or are they one step above roach motels.
    How about sales taxes? Why should anyone pay sales taxes in this county if short term rentals don’t?
    By allowing these businesses to proliferate unchecked, by not enforcing simple ordinances or enacting new ones, you are taking a chance with the reputation of our county.
    I support fully the need for a cap of 10 people per rental unit.
    I do support an outright ban on outdoor loud speakers.
    I do support the inception of a one-year county license for short-term rentals.
    And I do support a mandatory commercial insurance for each and every one of these businesses.
    Several of you live in Vero Beach. You are therefore protected from these businesses. Unincorporated areas aren’t.
    You do not know what it’s like to find topless strangers on your private street. You have no idea what it’s like to try to put your children to sleep on a Saturday night and have to bear with strangers from five counties over treating a street like a nightclub.
    We do.
    … more below

  3. Can you guarantee that the homeowner who breaks his social contract with his neighbors in the name of a few extra bucks isn’t renting to a pedophile? Or two?
    Can you guarantee that my new 48-hour neighbors aren’t selling drugs? Or running a roving swingers club?
    What I am asking might be a bitter pill to swallow for some of you.
    I am fully aware that the real estate industry is pushing for the proliferation of short-term rental.
    And I am fully aware that the campaigns of several you, including Mr. Solari, are bankrolled by real estate interests.
    That, however, doesn’t mean that I, and my baby, need to be punished for simply living in a beachside neighborhood.
    Please do the right thing and, if these rentals must exist, protect long time residents from short term interlopers.

  4. Knowing what we know about tricky Bob Solari it is highly probable that Solari would have voted differently had the short term rental vote been taken after the primary. He is the driving force behind keeping short term rentals alive and well in the county.

  5. […] The City of Vero Beach has long enforced a ban on these rentals within city limits. The county also once banned them but decided against the ban on the basis of individual property rights. The reaction from county residents forced the County to reconsider and in 2016, the County Commission again placed restrictions on short term rentals. Read this. […]

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