MARCO ISLAND — After years of debate, the at-times heated issue of what to do about noise, trash, occupancy and parking nuisances caused by resort rentals in residential areas may be cooling down. Marco has been discussing potential ordinances to both regulate and allow for short-term rentals in residential areas, but is putting such policy on hold — at least for now.
The city has defined short-term rentals as those which are rented as frequently as once in seven days or as long as 6 months.
Councilman Ted Forcht asked Police Chief Thom Carr what tools police currently have to deal with noise and partying in resort rentals.
“You just deal with it and usually people quiet down after the first warning. After that, it starts getting a little messy,” Carr said.
Vice Chairman Frank Recker said enforcement for a few months would be better than new regulations.
“Do you have the tools you need to do your job?” Chairman Rob Popoff asked Carr.
“My job yes. The job you want done with the owners, no. We can get ugly about it and we can write tickets the first time. If that’s what you’re telling me. You don’t want me to give these people any shot at all,” Carr responded.
He and Chief Code Enforcement Officer Eric Wardle both said the key to success is for people to report violations as they are occurring and may do so anonymously.
Trotter said an ordinance is needed to allow a business in a residential zone. He said fire inspections also should be addressed.
“To me it’s a safety issue first,” Trotter said.
Fire Chief Mike Murphy said their are state requirements to inspect, the department wants to inspect, but the city needs to set the policy to allow for it. Murphy said the department cannot track down rentals without registration with the city.
Councilman Wayne Waldack and Recker both said they had concerns regulating rentals in a down economy. Waldack suggested strengthening current noise, parking and occupancy ordinances rather than targeting rentals.
“We have some tools and I don’t think we’ve fully utilized them,” said Councilman Jerry Gibson.
Councilman Chuck Kiester supported a conditional ordinance, which could later be amended.
“I don’t think it’s fair for us to keep playing kickball back to the planning board. I think we need to say, ‘Chief Carr, fix it.’ ” Recker said.
Dick Shanahan spoke for the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors and the Chamber of Commerce when he said the two organizations opposed a resort rental ordinance.
Island Attorney Craig Woodward supplied a legal opinion to the organizations, which stated that currently renters are allowed and the city will face liability risks if they take away potential income currently understood to be homeowners’ right.
Resident Frank DeGaetano said he supported an ordinance because poor rental regulations in residential areas will further hurt property values.
“Think longterm,” DeGaetano said.
Resident Bill McMullan said there is a Web site advertising a Marco home that sleeps 25.
“They’re running a youth hostel. They’re running a small hotel. Do we not have the ability to regulate where a commercial enterprise is being held?” asked Councilman Ted Forcht, who said he saw ads for the same property.
“As a property owner, what I would like is a voluntary registry. I would like to know if there is any suspicious activity on my property,” said Islander Randy Egan, who owns a rental and hoped the ordinance would be killed.
Egan had hired Woodward to share a legal opinion on the matter.
Ken Honecker, who reported a nuisance rental next door to his home, said code board action against the neighbor didn’t seem to help him much.
“I do not support creating a new property right,” Honecker said. He said it would give the impression that any home on the Island can be purchased for use as a daily rental.
Popoff said he believed an ordinance would take away property rights.
City attorney Alan Gabriel said Community Development Director Steve Olmsted’s stance that short-term rentals are not currently allowed puts the city in a predicament if they don’t pass something.
Popoff suggested putting code enforcement under the police, but the idea didn’t garner much support or discussion.
Recker suggested tabling the issue until March 2010 with Carr reporting back on enforcement of rental issues at that time and council unanimously agreed.
Honecker said after the meeting Monday night that he couldn’t yet comment on the idea. “I’m still processing what just happened,” he said.