Marco Island association bans short-term renters from Residents' Beach; bookings canceled

Residents' Beach is a members-only facility located on 130 S. Collier Blvd. run by the Marco Island Civic Association.

The Marco Island Civic Association announced earlier this month that it will no longer allow short-term renters to enter its membership-only Residents' Beach facility to limit crowds as high season nears, but some condo owners say they are not happy with the decision.

"Using statistics from the last few years, we have decided that short-term rental properties were causing us to become overcrowded," Bob Brown, president of MICA's board of directors, wrote in an email Tuesday.

"And due to limited parking for our over 7,800 full-time MICA memberships, something needed to be done," he wrote.

MICA representatives did not immediately say how many people received Residents' Beach passes last year, and how many of those were short-term renters.

Condo owners who rent their apartments across the street from Residents' Beach told the Marco Eagle that MICA's decision is already causing people to cancel reservations. 

Mark Nothnagel, owner of a two-bedroom unit at the Mariner, said a client who made a month-long reservation for January canceled because of the new rules, resulting in a rental income loss of $4,000 to $5,000.

"It's not the main reason we own (the condo) but it is a part of the reason a lot of people own properties on Marco Island," Nothnagel said.

Nothnagel said if he continues to receive cancellations he may have to consider selling the condo.

In April, MICA temporarily banned short-term renters during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has now made the policy change permanent, said Ruth McCann, executive director of the organization. 

Prior to April, people who were renting property for a month or longer could apply for the Residents' Beach membership, which includes beach access, parking, restrooms, showers and dining at Paradise Grill.

Annual renters and property owners will continue to be allowed to apply for beach passes, according to the association's website. Residents' Beach members can also apply for passes for their guests who may use the facilities for up to two weeks. 

Sean Ensminger, owner of two condo units near Residents' Beach, said a renter canceled a month-long reservation for January because of MICA's new rule. Ensminger said he rents a one-bedroom unit at Island Manor for $2,700 a month during high season.

Ensminger said he will soon have to notify other renters who are not aware of MICA's policy change, and that it might result in cancellations. If more renters cancel, Ensminger said he will consider selling the properties.

"It's critical for us to be able to rent it, and get that rental income for the high season," Ensminger said.

Ensminger says people who rent for a month or longer should be allowed to apply for Residents' Beach passes.

Marianne Blazich, owner of a condo unit at Mariner, said MICA's decision was not fair because many short-term renters signed rent contracts before the ruling thinking they would have access to Residents' Beach.

Blazich said her only tenant did not cancel but was "not happy" with the new rule. The tenants would have to walk a half a mile to the nearest public beach entrance or drive to Tigertail Beach park.

"They rented (the apartment) with the stipulation that they could use this, and now they suddenly decided to pull it from us," Blazich said.

Residents' Beach was originally intended for the enjoyment of Marco Island residents, according to Brown.

"The purpose of Residents' Beach was exactly for that, residents, and not for short-term rentals," Brown wrote.

Nothnagel, Ensminger and Blazich, all MICA members, said the organization did not consult with them before banning short-term renters from Residents' Beach.

When asked why MICA did not consult with its membership, McCann said the board of directors can make these type of decisions.

"The MICA members elect a 12-member board of directors, and then the board members make the decisions," McCann said.

The rule change could also impact nearby businesses and restaurants, Nothnagel said.

Vince Rodriguez, owner of Verdi's American Bistro, wrote in an email that the rule change will hurt his business but the question is "how much?" His bistro is located half a mile from Residents' Beach.

"At this point we are still trying to get over the lack of demand from COVID-19," Rodriguez wrote. "We will worry about Residents' Beach next year."

When asked if MICA considered the possible impact its decision may have on nearby business, McCann said short-term renters can still enjoy the beach on Marco by entering through four public access points: Swallow Avenue, Winterberry Drive, Maple Avenue and Tigertail Beach Park.

"The beach is public," McCann said.

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