Council to reconsider rental ordinance

Steve Stefanides

The Marco Island City Council moved swiftly to reconsider its previous votes on an ordinance regulating vacation rentals. Councilman Amadeo Petricca moved to reconsider the issue, and received support from the majority of his colleagues.

"I may not have considered all the facts when I voted for the ordinance," said Petricca, as he listed the reasons:

• All rentals on the island register with the city to acquire an accurate number, including condominiums. This would require owners of units being rented to pay both state sales and county tourist taxes. The city receives a portion of the state tax back; tourist tax receipts are used to replenish beaches and advertise for more visitors.

• Condominiums would now have to register, but have the right to "opt out" if members of their association voted to do so. It is unclear whether registration would require inspection by the city.

• Reduce the response time for the contact person or owner to one hour, rather than the three hours presently in the ordinance, to ensure a quicker response to issues. "A number of people wanted me to relook at this issue, they thought we would be giving them another two hours to misbehave" said Petricca.

Councilman Larry Honig questioned the bureaucratic structure being imposed upon the city staff to manage the ordinance and the proclivity of council to keep changing previous votes.

"There is too much changing of the minds around here," said Honig. "I will probably vote to bring the item back due to the one- versus three-hour notification."

Councilman Victor Rios vehemently opposed the reconsideration.

"I'm totally dumbfounded and this is ridiculous" said Rios.

The council voted 6-1 to bring the item back. The issue will be heard again at the May 4 council meeting. In other issues, the council discussed a proposed noise ordinance and alley parking.

Alley parking

Council passed an amended ordinance that prohibits the stopping, standing or parking of any motor vehicle in an alleyway if it inhibits the free flowing of traffic.

With no debate, the council 5-2 to amend the ordinance. Councilors Rios and Bob Brown were opposed to the amendment.

Noise ordinance

Council held the final hearing on a revised noise ordinance. Considerable discussion went into defining what was "too loud."

The ordinance stipulates a 50-foot distance as a benchmark for an officer to determine what would be considered "too loud."

In the case of animal noises not in evidence when an officer is present, two sworn affidavits would suffice.

Rios questioned the subjectivity of determining what is too loud.

"I don't know how you determine what is too loud. I just see these as very contentious issues," said Rios.

Petricca also was concerned about the subjectivity of what is "too loud" and preferred using a decibel meter and establishing a maximum-noise level.

"I believe a decibel meter would be better," said Petricca.

Honig commented that he and his wife live with neighbors that don't cause a problem, but he has been with friends who have to tolerate unacceptable noise intrusion.

"My discussions with our own city staff, including the police department, shows me they don't have the necessary tools to deal with this," said Honig. "We have to trust our police and the judgment of the magistrate."

When the hearing was opened to the public, Ray McChesney questioned the ordinance.

"I think we are overreaching," said McChesney. "Maybe we should just have it apply to rentals."

"What I think we tried to do here is legislate a level of common sense," said Sacher.

Council passed the ordinance 5-2, with Rios and Petricca in opposition.