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Tracy Carroll's rental problems piling up

STORY BY EILEEN KELLEY, (Week of August 8, 2013)
Photo of the rented Carroll house.

Vice Mayor Tracy Carroll and her husband – already facing problems with Vero Beach code officials for renting a property in a Central Beach residential neighborhood by the week in violation of city regulations – are now in trouble with the state for renting the home without a license.

Hotels, motels, and other transient establishments such as the Tracy and John Carroll’s Camelia Lane home are required to be licensed by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The Carrolls have two months to get the license or they could be fined, said Tajiana Ancora-Brown, a department spokeswoman.

If the Carrolls were to apply today, the cost of the license would be $310, or about what they charge for a one-night stay at the two-story home nestled under the oaks at 530 Camelia Lane.

Should they get the license, the Carrolls will be admitting that they are renting out the Camelia Lane home on a short-term basis, something not allowed in the city.

An investigator from the state’s Division of Hotel and Restaurants was dispatched to the island July 18 after someone inquired about the Carrolls’ home and asked if it was licensed.  

The citation by the state is among a salvo of warnings and citations the Carrolls have faced over the years.

In 2011, the city started keeping tabs on the Carroll’s Seagrape Lane home after receiving complaints the couple was renting it on a short-term basis. In the spring of 2012, city officials cited the Carrolls and warned them to stop renting the home.

The Carrolls lost that home to foreclosure and have been renting out their Camelia Lane home which is on the market for more than $1 million.  In early July, the city fined the Carrolls $50 for violating city code and renting out the Camelia Lane home for periods of less than one month.

The Carrolls missed the deadline to pay the code enforcement fine and are demanding to have their case heard by the Vero Beach Code Enforcement Board, the very board John Carroll sat on for many years until last fall when city attorney Wayne Coment issued an opinion saying his participation on the board while his wife is on City Council violated nepotism guidelines.

John Carroll, in his letter of appeal, said he and his wife don’t agree with the city’s view of the rental regulations.  “We are in receipt of the above reference citation,” John Carroll wrote in a three-sentence letter sent to the city in mid-July.  “We do not agree with your interpretation of the Land Development Regulations as they pertain to rentals. Therefore, we demand a hearing.”

The Code Enforcement Board will hear the Carroll case in mid-August.

Planning Director Tim McGarry  said “I don’t see how they could find them not in violation. It’s going to be pretty hard to contest it. These are pretty open and shut cases, you either violated the code or you didn’t.”

If the Code Enforcement Board sides with the city, the Carrolls could appeal the decision in court. The code enforcement board could also increase the fine from $50 to $500 and ask that the Carrolls pay the administrative cost of the hearing.

“This is a scandal,” said David Hunter, a Central Beach resident and one of many who are growing increasingly frustrated with neighbors and now public servants thumbing their noses at the city code which bans rentals under 30 days.

Hunter filed the official complaint about the Camelia Lane property with the city.

“I have no vendetta,” said Hunter, a retired U.S. diplomat. “But these vacation rentals are something that I am strictly against. And now with the Carrolls, this is really getting ridiculous.”