“Complaints about the behavior of renters have increased dramatically.” Maybe it’s because Short Term Rental (STR) groups (Airbnb & Vrbo) have exploded and as an attractive vacation venue, we are not insulated from their impact 3,600+ rental properties on Marco.).
In 2011, the Florida legislature introduced a Statute (509.032) preventing local governments from managing STR’s. This was true unless the municipality had ordinances addressing STR’s prior to 2011, in which case, local ordinances were grandfathered. Marco Island’s Code of Ordinances (2001) did NOT identify STR’s as an allowed use in Residential Single-Family Districts (RSF-1 thru RSF-4). 99% of current Land Development Codes (LDC’s) address only USES that are allowed by Ordinance. The Deltona Planned Community documents and Marco’s LDC include a zoned Tourist Residential District (Zone 30-10) and zoned Residential Single-Family District (RSF Zone 30-81) There is no evidence these designations were presented to the state for grandfather consideration. Currently, LDC 30-81 does not permit STR’s in Residential Single-Family Districts as a USE by right or condition. Condominiums, timeshares and HOA’s are exempt from the Florida statute as they are governed by their bylaws.
In 2015, the state amended this Statute, allowing local governments greater authority in management of STR’s, though they could not restrict duration or frequency. Marco Island leaders did not take a proactive approach or establish a supported STR ordinance, despite island rental problems identified in 2008, 2015 and now. Inaction has led to turmoil and controversy. The Florida League of Cities, an organization that advocates for Cities has provided guidance to cities in managing STR’s (www.floridaleagueofcities.com/docs/default-source/advocacy/issue-briefs-talking-points/2020-tp—short-term-rentals.pdf). The Florida League of Cities representative for Marco did not bring STR management options to council colleagues or the community but inaccurately reiterated the City could not legislate because STR’s were controlled by the state. Hence, Marco’s STR problem was allowed to fester.
To say “Ordinances are in place, if only those ordinances were enforced,” is an insult to residents who incessantly contact code enforcement and/or MIPD who respond only to find themselves repeating the same exercise week after week with a new cycle of short-term renters. I would argue many of the city’s ordinances are flawed, making them ineffective or unenforceable when applied to the STR’s. The Council has acknowledged they do not know how many STR’s are on the island, if fines are paid, if tax requirements are met or if current ordinances, as applied, are effective. If investors, property managers and real estate agents have a sincere interest in assuring STR’s are managed effectively, they would not attempt to argue that the current system is working but rather come together with residents affected to create a meaningful system that could be measured, monitored and achieve satisfaction for all stakeholders.
It is time the stakeholders come together in earnest to try and resolve STR issues that the City Council chose to ignore or misrepresent over the years. Other municipalities have taken this on and established ordinances specific to STR’s that address many of the issues we are experiencing. There is no reason we cannot do the same. This is not an issue that affects “a small but vocal contingency in the community that wants to create another layer of bloated government bureaucracy to harm property owners” as quoted by one of the Marco Island City Council Candidates who is herself a real estate agent. This is not a small issue exclusive to Marco Island. This is an issue the Florida legislature continues to grapple with as STR’s are prolific and disruptive throughout the state. Let’s not kick another “can down the road” or initiate a “knee jerk” reactive plan trying to minimize the problem. It is time to legitimately address STR’s for the sake of our community and everyone’s quality of life.
The City recently established a task force and is requesting public comment with the intent of creating a “vacation rental program” (see the City’s website for details). This initiative has been taken outside of a City Council directive. The Council did direct the City Manager to review the Noise Ordinance and bring recommendations. Noise complaints were up 67%. This task force could be the first step in a process of researching STR issues and verifying alignment with the LDC, Florida Statute and property owner rights. A quantitative rental history including: growth over time, taxation capture, effectiveness of fines, detailed complaint history and rental management best practices are but a few of the data points needed to develop a comprehensive plan for managing STR’s. Preserving paradise and the quality of life for all requires accountability.