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Town hopes to settle case against violators of rental rules

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Longboat Key Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale is urging the Town Commission to approve a Settlement Agreement and Final Judgment in a case involving repeated violations of the town’s short-term rental restrictions.

The Town Attorney filed a lawsuit on June 3, 2019 against Equity Villa Fund and Equity Residences for the unauthorized rental of its residential property located at 537 Schooner Lane.

The lawsuit is based on the property owners repeatedly renting their property for periods of fewer than 30 consecutive calendar days, which is a violation of the town’s zoning code.

The property owners hired Sarasota Attorney Robert Lincoln and the Town’s counsel ensued with settlement negotiations

The case represents a significant precedent and commitment to the Town’s short-term rental regulations. The Town for decades has not allowed rentals of less than 30 days in residentially zoned districts.

Recently, state law has forbidden municipalities from regulating rental terms. Longboat Key successfully fought the state mandate by arguing that its rules existing prior to the state law and obtained a successful ‘carve out’ from the legislation.

The initial response to the Town’s citations against Equity Villa was that state law pre-empts the Town’s position. The Town had issued more than 12 citations against Equity Villa and received no payment.

The Settlement Agreement, which has been approved by the property owners, accomplishes the following:

• The Defendant Property Owners will be declared by the Court to have violated the Town’s Zoning Code (Sec. 158.144) by renting the property for periods of less than thirty days in the R-4SF zoning district;

• The Defendant Property Owners will be enjoined from using or renting the subject property for periods of less than thirty days in the R-4SF zoning district;

• The Defendant Property Owners will pay the Town a sum of $3,640 as a compromise of existing, unresolved civil citation fines (imposed for violations of Sec. 158.144 of the Zoning Code) and litigation filing costs incurred by the Town;

• The Court will retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the Final Judgment and Settlement Agreement should the Defendant Property Owners violate the Town’s Zoning Code in the future; and

• The disposition of this case establishes a judicial precedent upholding and enforcing Section 158.144 of the Town’s Zoning Code.

The Town Attorney said she believes the settlement will achieve the Town’s ultimate goal of ending ongoing violations of the short-term rental restriction and will bring the Schooner Lane property into compliance.

The Town Commission will decide on approving the settlement at its Monday regular commission meeting.

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