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Council mulls next step in rental referendum

Steve Stefanides
sstefanides@comcast.net

With the certification of 1,587 valid petition signatures, the group seeking to have the Marco Island City Council reverse its position on the recently passed rental ordinance will now have to anxiously await the action of the council as it moves through the process provided by the city charter.

The council will meet on July 20, unless called into special session by the chairman.

Here's what the city charter says in Section 6.04 - Referendum Petition; Suspension of Effect of Ordinance:

"When a referendum petition is filed with the City Manager or other official designated by the Council and deemed sufficient, the ordinance sought to be reconsidered shall be suspended from taking effect. Such suspension shall terminate when:

"(1) The petitioner's committee withdraws the petition;

"(2) The Council repeals the ordinance; or

"(3) After a vote of the City electors on the ordinance has been certified."

"I think we are in unchartered territory with this issue and to see inflammatory things being written in the paper and then being apologized for the next day by those that penned the words, just doesn't get us to a resolution on an issue we are trying to address," Bob Brown, council vice chairman, said on Tuesday.

It is unclear whether the council could even amend an ordinance that is placed into a "suspended status" as called for under the charter.

The Committee in Support of Marco Island Referendum Petition on Rental Ordinance 15-01, including members of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce and Marco Island Area Association of Realtors, had been seeking the repeal of the law passed in late May that calls for registration and inspection of rental units.

They have argued that more regulations and a burdensome process of inspections could impact property values and deter investors from purchasing property on Marco.

Supporters of repeal delivered more than 2,300 petitions last week to the county for signature certification, said David Carpenter, a member of the elections office staff. Of those petitions turned in, more than 1,500 were deemed to be valid, said Carpenter.

"We received over 2,300 signed petitions but ceased certifying signatures after we exceeded verifying over 1,500 as being valid," Carpenter said on Wednesday.

The group had until June 18 to turn in 1,246 valid signatures of Marco Island voters to take the process to the next step.

Petition group: City should repeal

The group advocating the rental ordinance referendum issued this prepared statement:

"We received over 110 a day with very little time to organize and tell the story. We clearly see people are upset with this. Hundreds more wanted to sign the petition and could not as they're not registered voters. They are taxpayers though and it seems ironic to us they have no voice in this matter affecting them.

"The people's voice is clear ... no rental ordinance, less regulation. The city council should at its next meeting in July repeal the ordinance or put it to a vote via referendum. We believe that is the correct thing to do. At least three sensible headed council members agreed, felt this ordinance was bad legislation, was not right, and voted against it. The other four of seven now have a clear message.

"Further, the committee believes the current ordinances in place now, if properly enforced, and maybe with minimal sensible adjustments, are able to handle any issues raised by homeowners. We've maintained this from the beginning."