The issues concerning out of control rental homes on Marco Island has once again surfaced. Out of control noise, garbage concerns and parking issues are again being heard loud and clear throughout the island.
In 2007, an eleven-person Ad-Hoc Rental Housing Committee was formed to review the issues and consider how they should be dealt with. That committee consisted of real estate professionals, chamber members and citizens. The group was chaired by former Councilman Chuck Keister, who was a non-voting member of the committee.
Their recommendations would eventually go to the Planning Board who held two public hearings in May of 2009 regarding the issue. On June 15, 2009, their report and recommendations would go to the Marco Island City Council. Then–Planning Director Steven Olmstead gave an overview to the council with the staff’s recommendations, which differed from the original desire of the committee who had compromised by recommending it as a “conditional use.”
Olmstead admitted during his testimony that there were more issues of a significant nature than first believed. Amongst them were:
- Frequent Turnover
- Transient Renters in “Vacation Spirit”
- Neighborhood disruptions
- Parking Issues
- Building/Fire Safety Requirements
When that report went before the City Council, it would be Councilman Frank Recker who brought clarity to the issue before them as he stated, “I would not have purchased a home on Marco in a single-family neighborhood if I knew there would be a fraternity house next door. I wouldn’t have put my family there; it would be too risky.”
The ordinance which was brought forward by the Planning Director would have allowed vacation rentals within a residential single-family home district as a permitted use. Then, as now, they are not a permitted use in RSF District as part of the City’s Land Development Code. However, enforcement of that prohibition has not been forthcoming by the city.
Vacation rentals are described as any rental done for less than 6 months by the State of Florida. This requires 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 allowed. Short-term rentals such as hotels and timeshares are allowed in the RT Zone (Residential Tourist Zone)
At the 2009 meeting of the City Council on August 3rd, neither an ordinance amending the LDC to allow for vacation rentals in a single-family neighborhood by permitted use or by conditional use was ever passed. No other actions were taken in the future, even though the council had asked for more guidance by police officials which was never forthcoming.
Fast forward to 2020, these same issues are escalating, and citizens are once again seeking redress under the city codes and are requesting that those codes be enforced.
Some believe a recent escalation in the writing of parking citations may be driven by rentals of single-family homes, which some believe may have come about due to the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the east coast of Florida. The cost of those rentals might be being shared by several families as an alternative to more expensive hotel rentals. Five to six vehicles parked at a home in the driveways, on lawns and in the swales are causing disruptions within those neighborhoods, as are issues with noise and trash.
The City Council on Monday evening took up the narrow issue of noise. Captain David Baer of Marco Island Police, who oversees Code Enforcement, made a presentation regarding the complaints which he testified had substantially increased in the last 3 to 4 weeks.
Reviewing the definition of noise and the level of fines were two of his focus points. He pointed out that the level of fines is dictated by state law, somewhat hamstringing the city in that regard.
He speculated that increases in calls are related to increases in numbers of people on the island. Baer stated that “More people have stayed for a number of reasons and more people are coming.”
“It will be impossible to eliminate noise,” said Councilman Grifoni. “We need to find a way to get some type of objective standard established. We need an objective standard with a dose of common sense.”
“When I campaigned last time, I came across a home that had four or five families with six to eight cars,” added Councilor Rios.
“I think we are seeing a lot more weekend renters,” commented Council Chair Brechnitz on the issue.
Martin Winter was hopeful that the island could find a resolution to the matter as he remarked, “I think the ordinance should protect everyone.”
Linda Godfrey commented that there was much anger dealing with this issue. “The two rental houses across the canal have caused a great deal of disruption unfortunately. We have a problem with enforcement. I am not anti-renter, I am anti-noise,” he concluded.
“I didn’t buy into this. I don’t have bad neighbors, I have bad renters,” noted Alex Parker.
The City Council agreed that they had heard the complaints loud and clear.