Council OKs rental ordinance, exempts condos
The Marco Island City Council on Monday voted to exclude condominiums from the long-debated ordinance requiring property owners to register short-term rentals.
The exclusion of condos came on the heels of a motion from councilman Larry Honig.
The council chambers were packed with both condo and single-family-home property owners who opposed the new regulations.
Prior to the council meeting, condo owners and condo associations had flooded council offices and the news media with letters and emails, opposing an ordinance that included condos. They argued that condos generally are self-policing with safety, fire and nuisance problems and any ordinance would be redundant and expensive to enforce.
Because of the exclusion of condos, councilman Ken Honecker immediately moved to table the new legislation, citing the exclusion of one set of property owners versus another. That motion failed on a 4-3 vote, with only Honecker, Honig and Victor Rios voting in favor.
Councilman Joe Batte then moved to approve the legislation as amended. Rios moved an amendment to that motion to allow for a 3-hour response time by an owner to abate the complaint before the city would take action, versus the original requirement of one hour.
"What is the point in creating this bureaucracy if we don't have an enforcement mechanism? We should just enforce the noise ordinance and fine the owner at $500 a violation," said Honecker in response to Rios' extension of the one-hour requirement for an agent or owner to act on a complaint after notification..
"I feel we'll not be doing our jobs if we don't pass this ordinance," said chairman Larry Sacher at the close of the debate.
When the vote was taken, the ordinance passed 4-3, with Sacher, Bob Brown, Batte and Petricca voting in favor.
In other action, council had before it an ordinance to temporarily fix the issues that confront traffic flow in certain alleyways around the island. It met with resistance from Joey Oliverio, the owner of Joey's Pizza, who was looking for more time to create a special taxing district to assess all property owners along his alleyway.
Council voted 4-3 to approve the new ordinance.
An amendment to the city's noise ordinance that would make the interpretation of noise and its objectionable nature more subjective by a code enforcement or police officers was another hotly debated issue of the evening. It was directly related to the short-term rental ordinance passed earlier in the evening.
The changes to the code were brought about after Batte had requested staff and the city manager and attorney review the present ordinance and tighten up some of the language with an eye toward toughening the standards.
Batte urged his fellow council members to pass the more stringent regulations.
"We need to give our law enforcement professionals a tougher ordinance and urged them to make the changes," said Batte.
A number of speakers and some councilors were somewhat concerned about whether the ordinance was over-reaching in its language.
Eric Condee questioned the extent to which the ordinance was being amended.
"I think we need to enforce the present ordinance rather than going down this road," said Condee.
Resident Dick Adams also questioned the subjective nature of the ordinance.
"I would suggest we rework this before moving forward," said Adams.
Ruth McCann, executive director of the Marco Island Civic Association, opposed the ordinance on behalf of her board of directors.
"This is much too drastic, this needs a lot of work," said McCann.
Honig joined with Batte and called for a tougher ordinance.
"We've heard from our citizens and they want tougher enforcement," said Honig.
The ordinance passed on its first reading by a 5-2 vote with Brown and Rios opposing the motion. It will again be brought up for discussion at the council's next meeting, as passage of any ordinance requires two readings prior to being adopted.
After a protracted afternoon workshop reviewing the capital needs for the city's utility department, Sacher suggested council revisit the vacant lot assessment.
"Our discussions earlier today convinced me we need to once again discuss this," said Sacher.
Honecker suggested that it come back in a more global discussion of water rates as a whole. Brown concurred with Honecker, desiring a more encompassing discussion on water rates.
"We have to look at the entire picture, not just a snapshot," said Brown after the meeting.
The city attorney advised council that they would need to waive the rules to bring the assessment back as part of a wider discussion on utility rates during a workshop session at a later date. That motion passed 6-1, with Rios opposing.
A workshop on utility rates will be held sometime in the near future. All aspects of the issue will be discussed, as well as options for the services provided by the city's utility to the Isles of Capri, Mainsail and Hammock Bay.
Recently the Collier County Commission had placed a request for proposal out for management of all districts within the country for fire services. The commissioners had specifically ruled out any proposals from the city of Naples or Marco Island as part of their request. A meeting was held with commissioner Donna Fiala to request reconsideration of that decision.
Fiala has asked for a lifting of the exclusion for Marco Island as the city is required to respond as part of the mutual aid agreement with Goodland and would therefore not be eligible for the $90,000 grant for those services but still have to respond to emergencies there.
A resolution requesting consideration was passed unanimously by council and forwarded to the commissioners.