MARCO ISLAND — Bouncing between boards — that’s what’s been happening to proposed ordinances meant to regulate short-term rentals in residential areas on Marco the last couple years.
Monday, the issue is to bounce back to City Council again for a discussion.
Chairman Rob Popoff couldn’t be immediately reached to explain why the issue is back before council instead of going to the Planning Board, as was the last plan per discussions in June.
Community Development Director Steve Olmsted said he believes the reason is to provide direction to the Planning Board. He also pointed toward the possibility of publicly addressing the opinion provided by Island attorney Craig Woodward indicating the city may bring upon some legal challenges from Island businesses and realtors depending on how this city ordinance is adopted.
Council reviewed an ordinance which allowed resort rentals as a permitted right and agreed they would also like to consider a conditional use version, which would be more restrictive. That meant the Planning Board legally had to hold one more public meeting on the conditional use draft.
Members of Planning Board, particularly Vince Magee, said they were frustrated that the issue was coming back to them after they spent about a year working out compromises on the contentious issue, which has often pinned real estate investors and landlords against full-time homeowners, who say they are annoyed by the noise, trash and parking problems short-term renters sometimes bring to their neighborhoods.
While there has been agreement among many that the number of problem resort rental properties is limited, what neighbors to those properties, such as Ken Honecker and Karen Salvi, say is that the problems are frequent.
The most recent development among Islanders on the issue is a cohesive group which opposes a conditional use version of the proposed ordinance.
The Marco Island Chamber of Commerce and the Marco Island Area Association of Realtors have taken a stance that the resort rentals are already permitted on Island. Woodward was hired by Island property owners Randy Egan and John Mastanduono to provide a legal opinion on the matter, which all agreed could be shared with the Island organizations and other property owners supporting the right to rent.
“The current Marco Island Land Development Code allows for rentals in residential zones as a permitted use,” Woodward states in the legal opinion supplied to clients.
He adds: “If the right to rent is changed to a conditional use, that will constitute re-zoning the single family residential properties and by changing that zoning, the City of Marco Island will be taking away a vested property right, which owners have relied on in the purchase of their properties.”
The concept of whether short-term rental properties are even allowed in single family residential areas was at the crux of the issue several months ago.
Olmsted was of the opinion that short-term resort rentals were not currently allowed, but said it could be debated.
Woodward now states in his legal opinion that because the right is currently there, if the city does anything to unduly restrict short-term rentals, causing damage to property owners, those owners could collect damage from the city under state law.
With both a legal opinion indicating a possible conflict with the city, and a show of a large segment of the real estate and business community opposed to the conditional use ordinance, city officials may now be thinking to redirect the Planning Board to no longer look at conditional use and continue forward with the Planning Board’s original majority preference, which was for an ordinance that allowed rentals as permitted uses.
The conditional use and permitted use draft ordinances are available in related links, along with Community Development Director Steve Olmsted’s analysis of how the two versions compare, Craig Woodward's legal analysis and City Attorney Alan Gabriel's legal analysis obtained after Eagle print time Thursday.
Council is to discuss the matter during a council meeting beginning 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.
View a related story about accelerating the sewer project, ending the electric line project and other items on council’s agenda Monday in today’s issue of the Eagle.