Sarasota County Commissioners Hope to Change Short-Term Rental Rules | Sarasota

County commissioners hope to change the ordinances to better suit the current short-term rental climate, updating regulations established long before sites like VRBO and Airbnb were popular.

Following a discussion led by Nancy Detert, the commissioners asked county prosecutors to look at potential changes to zoning and land use regulations that would make it more difficult for owners to rent their properties to vacationers.

Detert raised the issue because of several bills in Tallahassee that would seek to remove local control over short-term rentals. She said although the county already has an ordinance in place, she could be vulnerable in the future.

Detert said the original order, written in 2011, had a different definition of short-term rental than what is used today.

“If you go back a decade and think about what our definition of short-term rental was, it was 30 days instead of six months or a year,” she said. “Now we’re talking, ‘Should it be one day, two days, three days.’ “

Detert highlighted the now popular rental sites that allow vacationers to avoid traditional hotels or vacation rentals by staying in an owner’s home for several days. She said she would like to avoid a future where barrier islands are mainly used for short-term rentals instead of permanent residents.

“We welcome tourism, we welcome new residents, but I’d still like to recognize the place in a few years and not just have 30 people in a house with 18 cars in the driveway,” Detert said.

President Alan Maio was quick to support the need for an update to the ordinance, especially to protect the nature of the barrier islands.

He said he had heard from many landlords who live next to properties listed on short-term sites who complained about noise, garbage and parking as a result of rentals.

“I am absolutely to death afraid that a group of people in Tallahassee will vote to amend them and say that we cannot regulate anything,” Maio said. “There will be absolute havoc on Siesta.”

Detert said as the world of short-term rentals has changed dramatically since 2011, the county may not be as protected as it could be. She said potential changes to the law could include language addressing the three main complaints: parking, noise and garbage.

However, county staff have warned commissioners in the past that any change to the 2011 ordinance could make it more likely that any bill approved by the state legislature could override local checks.

If the county bylaws remain as they were written in 2011, there is a greater chance that the ordinance will be protected by any new state law.

The key to similar legislation that has been raised in years past has been a grandfather date, although these measures were never passed by the entire legislature.

County administrator Jonathan Lewis said the main concern for staff was what changes the board can make without risking losing the protections homeowners enjoy under the current ordinance. Instead of changing the ordinance, Lewis said one approach would be to add stacked neighborhoods in popular short-term rental areas.

Detert suggested that the prosecutor’s office look for potential changes to the code, which was approved unanimously.

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