Island seeks to sue over vacation rental violation

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Longboat Key Town Attorney Maggie Mooney wants to take the owners of 537 Schooner Lane to court for violating Longboat Key rental policy.

According to Mooney, the owners thus far do not dispute renting the single-family home for periods less than 30 days; they just don’t believe Longboat Key has the right to regulate the issue.

Longboat Key does not allow any properties to be rented for less than 30 days in any zoning district except for Tourism Zones. This has been the law on Longboat for decades.

Florida State Law no longer allows municipalities to enact such regulations on the length of time a property owner can rent their home.

The home at 537 Schooner Lane is owned by multiple fractional owners, according to Mooney, under the name Equity Villa Fund, LP and/or Equity Residences LLC.

The Town became aware of the violations over the past year and the Town’s Code Enforcement Office has issued more than a dozen citations to the property owners and/or renters.

Mooney reports that the property owner through legal council, has asserted that the Town’s short-term rental restrictions are pre-empted by State Law.

Mooney writes, “The property owner has therefore disregarded or ignored the Town’s short-term rental requirements provided for within the Town’s Zoning Code. There is no indication that the property owner and operator will cease using the property in violation of the Town’s Zoning Code.”

Mooney says that the Town has a pre-emption assertion that the Town’s regulations are specifically grandfathered under Florida Statute and Longboat Key’s short-term rental regulations pre-dates the June 1, 2011 applicability of the State Law.

Mooney does concede that any further enforcement actions will lead to Circuit Court.

It is that conclusion that if Longboat continues to enforce its very own law, the matter will end up in Court that prompts Mooney to ask the commission for a judicial determination.

Mooney is recommending that Longboat Key hire special counsel Arthur Hardy of Matthews, Eastmoore Law Firm to litigate against the property owners declaring them in violation of Town zoning code and ordering them to stop such violations.

The Commission is due to discuss the issue at its June 3 regular meeting.

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