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Pinellas Legislative Delegation hears from frustrated beach mayor, homeowners

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Redington Beach Mayor Nick Simons and four of his constituents came to ask members of Pinellas’ Legislative Delegation to help municipalities that want to regulate short-term, vacation rentals.

Delegations members heard their pain and frustration and made a move toward helping Redington Beach and a similar problem in Indian Rocks Beach. But they showed no interest in working to loosen restrictions on municipalities and counties that want the power to regulate those type rentals.

“I want to see this problem solved this year,” state Sen. Jack Latvala said. Latvala, Republican, is the chair of the delegation. “We are committed to try to solve this problem this year.”

State Sen. Jeff Brandes pointed out the money that short-term rentals bring into the county — about $63,000 a month in bed taxes. He added that the “vast, vast majority” of short-term rentals are working out but that there are isolated problems. He cautioned that any tinkering with the statute should be done delicately.

Latvala appointed Reps. Kathleen Peters and Ben Diamond as a “committee of two” to come up with a proposed solution for Redington and Indian Rock beaches in time for the delegation’s Jan. 31 meeting. Democrat Diamond, a lawyer from St. Petersburg, is new to the delegation. Peters, a Republican, represents many of the beach communities.

The Redington Beach council passed an ordinance in 2008 that restricted short-term vacation rentals. In 2011, the Legislature passed a statute saying that local governments could not restrict them. If, however, a city already had a rule in place, those would be honored.

Redington Beach thought it was protected. Recently, however, a Canadian couple bought a beach house and began renting it out. That was apparently successful because the couple bought another, larger house to rent out. Neighbors soon began complaining about noise, trash and rats, among other things.

They complained to the city, which tried to shut them down under the 2008 ordinance that prohibited such rentals. But the Canadians’ attorney argued that the ordinance was null because it had not gone to referendum before being passed as required by the Redington Beach charter.

That left the city’s hands tied and residents suffering.

“You’re looking at the poster child of what’s wrong with vacation rentals,” Redington Beach homeowner Steve Fields said. “Our life is holy hell. … It stinks. Rats are running around all over the place.”

Claudia McCorkle, a Redington Beach homeowner who lives between the two rentals, said, “It is a veritable nightmare.”

Neighbors, she said, must put up with “shrieking, screaming, undisciplined, unsupervised children.”

“The piercing shrieks are obnoxious,” McCorkle said.

Delegation members suggested the city cite the landlords or renters under other ordinances and to call the sheriff when the noise became too loud.

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