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Beach mayors want to end law preventing cities from restrictring short-term rentals

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Saying the law violates home rule, a coalition of beach mayors passed a resolution Wednesday asking the state Legislature to repeal a statute that limits their ability to regulate short-term rentals.

The Legislature is trying to cater to the short-term rental lobbyists, North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen said.

“They forget that they represent the people,” Queen said. “That’s the huge issue right there.”

Short-term rentals have become a booming business in recent years. Companies like Airbnb list private homes available for vacation rentals on websites. The houses can be rented for a day or weekend or a couple of weeks. The prices can undercut the cost of a hotel room by 20 percent to 50 percent.

That sounds good on its surface, but Queen and other mayors say there’s a darker side for the people who live near the rentals. Noisy parties and heavy traffic in residential neighborhoods are just two of the complaints local governments across Florida have had in recent years.

The problem, they say, stems from a state law passed in 2011 that essentially takes away a local government’s right to restrict or regulate the short-term rentals. That doesn’t affect cities that already had iron-clad ordinances controlling the rentals. But it does affect those cities that did not have such rules. And, if a city moves to tweak or tighten its ordinance, state law declares the local rule to be null and void.

Cities have unsuccessfully fought the 2011 limitations on a municipality’s right to regulate the rentals. Two bills that would have basically eliminated the provision limiting municipalities failed to pass. Now, members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council, want to try again. The Big C is a coalition of 11 south Pinellas beach cities.

Members of the Big C concede the state law only affects two of their members. Others, they said, aren’t affected because they already had iron-clad rules in place. But all support the resolution because they see a bigger issue – the “erosion of home rule,” Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno said. Home rule is the right of local municipalities to self-govern without interference from the state. The idea is that local officials know best what their constituents want and need.

Queen agreed that home rule is the real issue: “Right now, it’s affecting these two cities. If we don’t stop them, somewhere down the line,” the Legislature will override rules that other cities have established.

“It’s arrogance. It’s arrogance out of control,” Queen said of the Legislature’s actions. “What we’re afraid of, it’s just a bridge for more.”

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