City proposes state vacation rental law

Anna Maria seal

ANNA MARIA – The city is going on the offensive in fighting for the protection of Florida cities’ home rule rights when it comes to regulating short-term vacation rentals.

City Attorney Becky Vose has drafted a bill that city officials hope will be introduced by supportive state legislators during the 2018 legislative session next spring.

“Becky has prepared a piece of proposed legislation that says municipalities and counties have the right to regulate vacation rentals as though they are a commercial enterprise,” Murphy told the commission on Thursday, July 13.

“Basically, what it says is cities and counties can pass ordinances designating vacation rentals as a commercial use and regulate them accordingly,” Vose added.

vacation rental
Large vacation rentals could be regulated as businesses, not residences. – Cindy Lane | Sun

Despite their commercial natures, the state currently considers vacation rental homes to be residential uses and state law limits how they can be regulated locally.

“We’ve had these discussions about vacations rentals being commercial enterprises for several years, so I don’t think there’s any mystique here,” Murphy said.

The mayor sought commission consensus to move forward with the efforts to get the proposed legislation introduced next year. This action is in response to two vacation rental bills that earlier this year unsuccessfully attempted to curtail local governments’ ability to regulate short-term vacation rentals.

“I will contact our lobbyist (Chip Case) and he will work with Flagler County, Dade County, Pinellas County and even in Orlando to get this out as our getting on the offense. If we sit here and wait, we’ll be playing defense again next year,” Murphy told the commission.

The city and its allies will need at least one member of the Florida House and one member of the Florida Senate to file the proposed legislation on their behalf.

Murphy said the Florida League of Cities (FLC) will host its annual conference soon, and he expects there to be a big push by members to protect home rule rights that pertain to local legislation and regulation in general.

Commissioner Carol Carter said FLC representative Amber Hughes attended the ManaSota League of Cities meeting earlier that day in Longboat Key and home rule rights were discussed.

“The plan is to make home rule the super priority in this 2018 legislative session. It sounds like it fits well with what we hope to do in taking the lead,” Carter said of the strategies to be discussed at the FLC conference in Orlando on Aug. 17, 18 and 19.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he supports the city’s proposed legislation “100 percent,” and commissioners Nancy Yetter, Brian Seymour and Doug Copeland made that support unanimous.

“I’ll get with Chip tomorrow and we’ll get cranking on it,” Murphy told the commission.