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Vol. 15 No. 25 - April 15, 2015

opinion

One step at a time

The city of Anna Maria finally passed its vacation rental ordinance after many legal opinions. That means the city will regulate the rental homes instead of trying to get rid of them.

On another front, Anna Maria City Commission Chair Chuck Webb continues to talk about getting a declaratory judgment to see if the city could consider vacation rentals a commercial activity, which is not allowed in residential neighborhoods.

Members of the rental industry were involved when the city started work on the vacation rental ordinance, but the city ignored some of those contributions and the professionals were unhappy with the results, saying the commission speculated what the professionals were doing instead of asking them.

Passage of the vacation rental ordinance brought warnings from attorneys threatening lawsuits, but the prospect of the city taking action against a rental property and going to court to have the judge determine the legality of the vacation rental business is likely to be much more controversial.

We think the city should see how the vacation rental ordinance works before tackling the prospect of seeking a declaratory judgment.

The night the commission passed the ordinance, vacation rental professionals said they did not like the eight-person limit on occupancy and the harsh penalties for the agents who allow renters to cause disturbances. Violators could lose their city issued rental license for up to two years.

Things are likely to be more tense if the city seeks the declaratory judgment. What if the judge finds the activity is illegal? Would the city be able to do much more than prevent new rentals while it grandfathers units already being used as rentals?

The residents of the Island will have to live with the rental units for a long time. There's no turning back the clock, so we'll have to work to find the best solution to diminish the impact on our neighborhoods.

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