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Date of Issue: July 07, 2005

Planning commission recommends grandfathering short-term rentals

The Holmes Beach Planning Commission voted to recommend that the city commission grandfather existing, legally licensed, short-term rental properties in the R-1 (single-family) and R-2 (medium-density) residential districts and limit future rentals in those neighborhoods to a minimum monthly stay.

Planning Commission Chairperson Sue Normand opened last Tuesday's meeting by stating that the recommendations under consideration are not a "knee-jerk" reaction to citizen complaints, but rather an effort to protect the residential character of some neighborhoods.

She further expressed her belief that the community has a misconception of which properties would be impacted. "We're only talking about 23 properties in the R-1 district and 48 properties in the R-2 district," she said.

Holmes Beach Public Works Clerk Susan Lonzo added that many people complaining are not legally operating rental properties. She said that of 30 opposition letters received in the past week, 15 of those complainants were not legally licensed to operate rental properties.

Commission member John Monetti reiterated that the recommendation is not a knee-jerk reaction and that it is an effort to be "forward-thinking" in protecting residential character and allowing short-term rentals in the appropriately zoned neighborhoods.

Commission member Gary Hickerson said he wants to live in a neighborhood where people are home and it's the same people - those who can exchange keys and helping hands.

One property owner took exception to Hickerson's comments, suggesting he recuse himself due to an apparent bias against renters versus long-term residents.

But Hickerson also pointed out that the city has seen a decline in its number of registered voters and students registered at the Island school, suggesting that the pendulum may be swinging too far toward vacation rentals and away from single-family homes.

The only planning commissioner to recuse himself from the vote was Mike McCaleb, who said he has a conflict of interest since he would be financially affected by any decisions made on limiting rental terms. McCaleb is an architect.

Despite a public outcry that limiting rentals in the single-family residential districts to a 30-day minimum would drive away business for house cleaners, day boat captains, gift shops, restaurants and so forth, the only issue the board put up for debate was whether to grandfather existing licensed short-term rental properties in the R-1 and R-2 districts.

The planning commission agreed that hotel/motel establishments such as Haley's Motel, which has been in business in the R-2 district for more than 50 years, are non-conforming uses and can be grandfathered as such.

Planning commissioners then came to a consensus to recommend that existing licensed short-term rentals in the R-1 and R-2 districts be grandfathered for five to 10 years. The rationale of the commission is that this time frame would give property owners time to "recoup" and amend future plans.

The recommendation is not only an attempt to prevent short-term rentals in these two districts from growing disproportionately to full-time residents, but also restricts short-term rentals to the more appropriate A-1 or R-4 district, the board reasoned.

Ultimately the decision will be left to the city commission. The planning commission recommendations go to the city commission, which then holds public hearings on any changes considered for the comprehensive plan.

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