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Town to ticket illegal tourism rentals

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

After a lengthy review put on by the town attorney’s office of what other municipalities have done to reign in illegal tourism rentals, Commissioner George Spoll spoke up to cut through to what he said was the real issue.

“This is all about enforcement,” said Spoll at last Monday’s meeting.

Spoll said that the town would have to “bite the bullet” and hire more police, and wanted to move the talk from an overview of other communities’ laws and processes to specifically how to beef up enforcement on Longboat Key.

Consensus was reached unanimously that the commission does not want to water down its rules that prohibit anything less than a 30-day rental within a calendar month in residentially zoned properties.

Town Manager Dave Bullock raised the issue because the ever-increasing presence of online rental companies such as VRBO and Airbnb have the potential to circumvent Longboat’s regulations.

Bullock suggested that the town police the booking agents and bring them into the town’s enforcement arena.

Bullock then suggested the town be allowed a simple citation process in which the code enforcement officer and police officers can write tickets at the moment it is believed the violation has occurred.

Currently, the town uses a code enforcement process that goes through the code enforcement board and is very intensive because it can ultimately place a lien on a violating property. The ticket method will be a fine much like a speeding ticket and that fine will be the extent of the punishment.

The town will focus on fining renters, property owners, as well as local and online booking and rental agencies.

“There will be challenges and it could be costly. I don’t want you to think we’re going to go out and deliver a knockout punch,” warned Bullock about the change in methodology.

Bullock said that the town will develop a fine schedule consistent with Florida law and over the next months will write an ordinance to put the process in place.

Additionally, the town will initiate a request for proposals to find a company that will analyze the rental market and rental websites to determine an inventory of properties that are potential violators. Bullock told the commission that such companies exist and were spawned after municipalities found a need to control the problem of unfettered rentals and tourism uses in residential communities.

One Longboat Key resident pleaded with the town after she said she was frustrated after giving the Code Enforcement Officer and Code Enforcement Board extensive evidence and testimony about an illegal rental and she said it went absolutely nowhere. She said she went to the Board and the Board started to ask questions and that the Town Attorney told them not to ask her questions.

“We have a law on the books; enforce it! If there is a will – and I don’t feel the Town Attorney has the will – then enforce the law. Mr. Spoll is right, we need to enforce it. You don’t have anything because you do not enforce anything. You can’t lose something you never use,” she said.

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1 Response for “Town to ticket illegal tourism rentals”

  1. Suny Gravy says:

    Spoll is Penny Wise and Pound Foolish as the expenditure for additional Lease Police and prosecution will cost the Town far more than the amount of fine money produced.

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