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Survey: Crackdown on weekly rentals and transients wanted

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of August 29, 2013)
Photo: A problem rental home on Flamevine Lane.

The city of Vero Beach may have had trouble enforcing its existing restrictions on weekly home rentals and operation of boarding houses in residential neighborhoods, but a survey conducted by Vero Beach 32963 found that Central Beach residents overwhelmingly want the City Council to get tough and end such practices.

Over the course of several days, Vero Beach 32963 talked to dozens of Central Beach residents inquiring whether they felt short-term rentals and boarding houses should be permitted in their neighborhoods.  Both matters have raised the ire of residents, a growing number of whom are urging the city to shut down these operations.

Typical of the responses was that of John Hall, who while building his own home on Ocean Drive, lived for a year next door to a Seagrape Lane home then owned by City Council member Tracy Carroll and her husband John, who were renting it out on a weekly basis.

 “I can tell you that the beer bottles, pickups parked in the front lawn, overflowing trash cans on the street and the all-night parties are not what one deserves when you plunk down your life savings for a piece of paradise,” Hall told Vero Beach 32963.

Only 10 percent of those surveyed felt the city should not ban short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.  The city has maintained it is legal to rent out a home for one month or more, but that homeowners in residential neighborhoods may not rent out their home for 30 days or less.

Carroll and her husband John were recently fined by the city for renting out another home on Camelia Lane by the week. The Carrolls refused to pay the $50 fine and instead appealed to the city’s code enforcement board. 

On Aug. 14, the code enforcement board sided with the Carrolls.  Now it is up to the City Council to decide if they will hire an outside attorney to challenge the decision and sue the Carrolls in circuit court.  City Attorney Wayne Coment represents the code enforcement board and therefore could not sue on behalf of the council.

In the meantime, a frustrated Vero Beach Planning and Development Director Tim McGarry is refusing to do any more policing of rentals.  This, judging from our interviews, is not sitting well with Central Beach residents.

“The law should be enforced,” said resident Steve Martin.

Christine McLaughlin, a realtor and Central Beach resident who specializes in selling Central Beach homes, said residents to whom she has sold homes are upset about living near weekly rentals.

“They are very disturbed about what they see going on across the street or next door,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin and many others say their biggest concern with short-term rentals is that neighborhood ambiance and security erodes when there is a steady stream of people who do not live there coming and going.

“I have not heard of anything good to come of it (short-term rentals) and most people I know, I  mean 95 percent of the people I have spoken with, are not happy about it,” McLaughlin said.

In contrast to the opposition to short-term rentals, only one person surveyed objected to presence of a community garden on a vacant lot in their neighborhood.

“When I bought here, it never occurred to me that you could rent out on a weekly or daily basis. We need some control over the zoning and the rentals so it is a fair shake for everyone.”

As of 1 p.m. Monday, 30 people also had emailed Mayor Craig Fletcher and Councilwoman Pilar Turner imploring them to appeal the decision of the code enforcement board not to fine the Carrolls.

“I am strongly against short-term rentals,” said neighbor Sherri Davidson. The Carrolls “had extended families (six cars) renting for a week two years ago and the next week there were four pickup trucks in front of the house.  And then there was a business conference where people came and left for a few days. Would you want that across the street from you or next door?

“Do we have to move to a gated community where there are restrictions?” Davidson continued. “Don and I chose to buy a house in the Riomar area. I cannot believe this is legal. Our neighborhood is not zoned commercial. We chose it because we liked the intimacy and beauty of old Florida.”

The city maintains it has laws addressing both short-term rentals as well as boarding houses, but admits that the laws on boarding houses are outdated.

In early September, City Council is expected to vote on new boarding house regulations that would ban people from parking in the yard on a permanent basis – as they are doing at Irene “Renee” Snyder’s boarding house on Banyan Road – which could put Snyder’s two boarding houses out of business.