Sarasota expands short-term rental regulations

Written by on Thursday, October 5, 2023

Mainland homeowners will have to pay fees, get inspected.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: Oct. 4, 2023

Host: The mushrooming of short-term rentals in Sarasota has been a challenge on multiple levels, ranging from noise, to hotel house construction, to rising scarcity of affordable rentals. The City of Sarasota has kept tight reins on vacation rentals on the islands. Now it is expanding regulations to the mainland, and that means change for hundreds of owners of AirBnb, Vrbo and similar rentals. Ramon Lopez has that story.

Ramon Lopez: The City of Sarasota on Monday expanded its vacation rental ordinance and fees beyond the barrier islands to the rest of the city. The mandate extends the coverage from about 130 vacation rentals to as many as 700 or so vacation hire properties within city limits. The Sarasota City Commissioners’ 4-1 vote – with only Commissioner Erik Arroyo dissenting – comes as welcome news for some city residents who are concerned about the growing number of short-term rentals citywide.

They complain about noisy renters and more renters than allowed by law, which is 10 people, staying a minimum of seven days. They believe expanding the ordinance to their mainland neighborhoods will help enforce vacation rental rules and curb excesses and violations there.

Flo Entler, who lives in the Arlington Park neighborhood, is elated by the law’s extension beyond the barrier islands.

Flo Entler: Vacation rental issues are not limited to the barrier islands. It’s time to bring an ordinance forward for a vote so we can get protections throughout all neighborhoods within the city. The city is losing a lot of property tax revenue. We have a developer buying affordable homes, adding a pool, and renting them as vacation rentals. Affordable homes are being torn down, and now that they can’t move those, they’re buying them, adding a pool. Now we have more Airbnb’s throughout the neighborhood, further decreasing the rental stock available to permanent residents, not only single-family neighborhoods losing their affordable housing, but these commercial businesses within the neighborhoods are affecting our quality of life. The neighbors have been asking for this ordinance to be citywide for years. We need it now, as the peaceful enjoyment of our homes has been compromised for years by commercial businesses being run in our residential single-family neighborhoods.

R.L.: But Max Brandow, with the Realtors Association of Sarasota and Manatee, sees things differently.

Max Brandow: This ordinance doesn’t address any of the issues that the neighborhood groups are talking about. It increases fees and inspections for sure. It creates safety standards for vacation rentals that the city doesn’t impose on residential structures that are functionally the same exact structures and uses. The city has yet to show how an increase in inspections will prevent visitors from being noisy. How does an increase in inspections prevent house parties? Honestly, I believe the city is in danger of spending a ton of money expanding this program with little assurances the proposed regulations are even going to address the problems the residents are complaining about.

R.L.: Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch introduced the resolution to extend the ordinance city-wide.

Jen Ahearn-Koch: It is really broadly supported in our city, not only by the islands who already have it, but also from the neighborhoods. Both together are in support of it. So it’s kind of a wide base of support. I would urge you to support this, and I would urge you to do that which we can do. This is not anti-vacation rental. I’m working towards something that we can do.

R.L.: Commissioner Arroyo, who cast the one ‘nay’ vote, doesn’t agree with Ahearn-Koch.

Erik Arroyo: It’s a nuanced issue. I remember when we started this conversation, for you it was not short-term rentals. It was those hotel houses. It was these houses being turned into 10-bedroom, 10 bathroom, little mini resorts. That was the intent of this, and somehow we have shifted it from not only against hotel houses, but short-term rentals in general, which are not mega corporations. These are individuals, these are families, there’s 700 of them. Are we saying we can get more money just because we can? If we are, that’s taxation without representation in my book. I’d be in favor of something that addressed the perceived problems that we are facing, which is parking, noise and trash. That’s my two cents. Thank you.

R.L.: The commission previously raised the fees paid by vacation rental house owners to operate. Sarasota created the ordinance in 2021, requiring owners of vacation rental on Saint Armands, Lido Key and Siesta Key, to register. The commissioners decided that the original fees did not cover the actual cost of running the enforcement program.

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.


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