MARCO ISLAND — Marco’s Planning Board members, as well as residents, were nearly split on the key points of a draft ordinance governing resort rentals in residential areas. The ordinance being considered will permit short term rentals in single family residential neighborhoods, which currently are not allowed.
The short term rentals, defined as rentals available as frequently as once every seven days, will require registration, fire inspection and other requirements still being hashed out.
About 70 residents attended Friday’s meeting. Many of them, as well as planning board members and code enforcement officials, agree about the need for the ordinance. Resort rentals in residential areas came to council’s attention more than one year ago when the problems reported included that short term visitors often violate existing noise, parking and trash ordinances.
Why don’t current noise, parking and trash ordinances allow those problems to be addressed?
The answer: The ordinances currently punish the short term renter who is quickly replaced by another short term renter who violates the same ordinances, says Community Development Director Steve Olmsted.
This is annoying for the neighbor, who, no matter how frequently they contact code enforcement or the police, the perpetrators continue to be new people every week.
“It’s the cumulative effect,” Olmsted added.
Neighbors of short term rentals, including Cindy Blatt, Karen Salvi, Ken Honecker, Al Bozzo and Peter Zorzi, all told similar stories at Friday’s Planning Board meeting.
Living next to a six-bedroom house with 14 people next door can become “a bit over the top,” Zorzi said of a neighboring property.
He said he bought in a single family neighborhood not a hotel district.
“Plus even if this were a hotel and people were out of control, there would be a manager right there to tell them to be quiet out of respect for the other guests,” Zorzi said.
He added that most of the renters are not a problem, but for those that are, a solution, including hefty fines for the owner, needed to be found.
There was a majority inclination of the Planning Board, 5-2, that the ordinance should not pertain to condominium rentals. Planning Board member Vince Magee was in the minority when he said that he was passionate that condos should be governed by the new ordinance.
Irv Pavlow agreed with Magee.
Pavlow said condos should be included to ensure that all landlords paid tourist taxes and income taxes.
Magee said he was “adamantly against the ordinance all together” but if there were requirements for short term rentals it would be “discriminatory” to not include multi-family, condo residences.
Resident Ron Book questioned Magee’s logic.
“Well then why not include hotels and time-shares too?” Book asked.
Olmsted said he believed a conditional use permit for short term rentals would be preferred over a permitted use because conditional use would allow the city to take away a short term rental license if the property owner were continually in violation.
Councilman Chuck Kiester, who chaired the citizens’ committee which created the first working draft of the ordinance, said such legal technicalities were likely the reason for the inability to reach a consensus about the current draft ordinance. The first draft was less technical and therefore passed unanimously by the citizens’ committee, Kiester added.
A significant distinction between permitted and conditional use is that permitted uses do not require neighbor notification before approval of the short term rental license.
Kelly Linman, who owns Island rental properties, said Realtors should be concerned with conditional use because if selling a house to a potential client it would be an easier sell if they knew they could rent the property.
However Olmsted noted that a conditional use permit falls in line better with state statutes, specifically 509.
Chairman Marv Needles said what concerned him about conditional use permits is it left the discretion up to the community development director, who some day could take a different position on the issue.
“Let’s stay away from the concern of a rogue director run amok,” Olmsted said, adding that there are procedures for handling such a case through the city manager.
Olmsted will draft a new ordinance in advance of the next Planning Board meeting to include changes proposed by the business community, planning board and Fire Chief Mike Murphy.
The committee voted 4-3 to change the draft ordinance to a permitted use rather than conditional use; 4-3 to reconsider the condo issue and 4-3 to continue the discussion to the next Planning Board meeting, 9 a.m. March 13 in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.