The battle by homeowners to retain some control over what has been seen by some as a negative impact on single family neighborhoods has taken a hit in the Florida Legislature. Marco Island residents, like residents from some other communities scattered throughout the state, have risen up in opposition to the impact of “short-term” rentals within single family neighborhoods.
In 2018-19, the same issue was litigated in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court in Volusia County, Florida. Residents complaining of similar problems within their single-family home neighborhoods believed short term rentals were disrupting their “quality of life.” When Daytona subsequently began enforcing the provisions of its Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Codes regarding increasing issues with short-term rentals, a group of investment property owners challenged the City of Daytona Beach’s zoning, which did not allow for the practice of short-term vacation rentals in single family residential neighborhoods. Those specific provisions existed prior to Daytona Beach updating its Comprehensive Plan in 2015, and were noted in that update.
Many here on Marco saw the similarity with their plight regarding the issues surrounding short-term rentals. According to the Marco Island Comprehensive Plan, the permitted uses in residential single family (RSF) districts are single family residences, family care facilities (subject to restrictions of the Land Development Code), along with parks and open spaces. Additional “accessory” and “conditional” uses that allow child-care centers, churches, schools, recreational facilities and others also are included. However, these “accessory” and “conditional” uses require a review and an approval process. The primary use allowed in the RSF Zone is single family residences.
Vacation rentals are described by the State of Florida as any rental for less than six months, and require an owner to charge sales tax. Because of the requirement to collect sales tax, the owners are, in effect, running a business in a residential single family neighborhood, which is not listed as an “allowable or conditional use” under the city’s zoning.
Public hearings before committees in both the Florida Senate and House are being held to consider legislation that could further strip away power from local governments regarding licensing and inspection of rentals.
Both State Senator Kathleen Passidomo and House Representative Bob Rommel have taken positions favoring the legislation, which is strongly backed by vacation rental giants VRBO and Airbnb. At the same time, it is opposed by the Florida League of Cities as well as the Florida Association of Counties. Passidomo and Rommel both chair the respective committees in the Senate and House that initially have given a thumbs up to that legislation.
Marco Island Zoning predates the 2011 legislation that took away the right of a municipality to ban short-term vacation rentals in single family homes. The fact that the city’s zoning was in place prior to the 2011 State Statute 509.032(7)(b) legislation gave hope to the Marco proponents in their efforts, since the court ruling in the Volusia County case stated the following: “However, the Statute also makes it clear that any local law, ordinance or regulation adopted on or before June 1, 2011, was not pre-empted by the state, and remained in full force and effect.”
As was reported by The Coastal Breeze News in January, resident David Romano, an outspoken critic of the lack of progress on the issues concerning abuses within single family neighborhoods, filed an official Code Violation complaint with the City regarding this issue and the City’s lack of enforcement of its own Comprehensive Plan. The Volusia County ruling had given Romano hope that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. However, the votes and positions taken by both Senator Passidomo and Representative Rommel have given him cause to wonder who they are representing. “I can’t believe that with all that is going on and the facts that have been shown regarding the court ruling that they would take this position,” said Romano.