This battle is statewide, but most evident locally in the Hammock where new 10 bedroom homes resembling mini-hotels are invading residential neighborhoods.
Palm Coast, FL – February 5, 2014 – A local battle pitting builders and vacation home rental companies on one side against Hammock residential homeowners on the other is being played out in Tallahassee.
Bills sponsored by State Senator John Thrasher and State Representative Travis Hutson to return local home-rule control of short term vacation rentals moved forward yesterday. The State Senate Committee on Community Affairs voted 6 to 2 in favor of the Senate bill while the State House subcommittee on Business and Professional Regulation voted 12 to 3 in favor of the House bill.
Flagler County Commission Vice Chairman Frank Meeker and Commissioner Charles Ericksen Jr. attended both committee hearings to support Senator Thrasher and Representative Hutson. Prior to the hearings, they also spent time speaking with individual legislative members and their staffs of both committees.
Numerous representatives of local government also traveled to Tallahassee to voice their support of the bills and describe the problems they were experiencing in their communities.
"It is important for the Legislature to respect the property rights of individuals who invest their life savings in buying a home in a single-family neighborhood,” Vice Chairman Meeker said. “Then later they discover a mini-hotel moving in next door. The citizens come to local government and we have no power to address these problems because of the 2011 law."
Commissioner Ericksen said the three hours of prep time with legislators and staff was time well spent. “Some told us right off the bat they were for or against the bill and we pressed them on why. This information gave us the ability to get more yes votes. It really made a difference."
The bill received unanimous support last month before the State Senate Committee on Regulated Industries. Commissioners Meeker and Ericksen also participated in that hearing on behalf of Flagler County.
“I believe our community’s genuine heartfelt passion has inspired the members of the Florida Legislature that this is the right thing to do,” County Commission Chairman George Hanns said. “I’m proud that our County Commission is strongly united in this goal.”
Flagler County, with the assistance of its State Legislative Delegation, is attempting to amend House Bill 883 passed in 2011 which took away all home rule rights of local communities regarding short term vacation rental properties.
Home- rule authority is a right provided to local communities by the Florida Constitution for self governance on local community issues. The result of that bill was a proliferation of mini-hotels permitted as super-sized homes in residential neighborhoods being rented to four to six families at a time without the same rules or oversight a typical hotel/motel.
Short term vacation rental homes with sometimes more than 20 people in one home are creating parking, noise and other problems in residential neighborhoods. The law also triggered the modifying of existing homes into Mini-hotels to accommodate even larger groups of short term renters without the same public safeguards and protections of other lodging establishments.
The 2011 local preemption legislation gave exclusive regulation of vacation homes to the State unless there were already local ordinances in place and exempted some jurisdictions altogether. The regulation was turned over to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Flagler County Commissioners and county staff have been traveling, emailing, calling and speaking statewide seeking support for a bill that would return regulation of vacation home rentals to local government.
The next stop for Senate bill is onto the Senate floor for final adoption. The House has two more committee hearings before it reaches the House floor.