Longboat's Planning, Zoning and Building director dismissed three citations for short term rentals on the grounds that not enough evidence was provided.
Longboat Key has dismissed three short-term rental fines this week in response to a challenge by a property owner.
The town dismissed citations against Lynn Jacobs, who owns 511 Golf Links Lane in Country Club Shores, and Jonathan Jones, who had rented the property as a tenant for fewer than 30 days, on the grounds that it had not provided sufficient evidence of a violation to issue citations to those individuals, said Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale.
Robert Lincoln, a lawyer representing Jacobs and Jones, claimed in a letter to the town that the details included on the citation issued to his clients were not sufficient in describing facts that constitute reasonable cause of a violation, an assertion to which the town conceded.
Jacobs faced $350 in fines and Jones, who had been renting the property on July 10th, was fined $100.
Code enforcement officers will now be required to include “supplemental details to describe the violation” when issuing a citation, Mooney-Portale said.
But Lincoln further argued on behalf of his clients in a letter to the town that the rules prohibiting short-term rentals were actually deleted in 2014. The town disputes that assertion, saying residential homes are defined elsewhere in the town code as a permanent dwelling for occupancy of 30 days or more, therefore serving as a rule against short-term rentals.
The section of the zoning code Lincoln calls into question is 158.132: the part of Longboat Key’s zoning code that defines tourism uses and has been referenced on citations issued in connection with short-term rental violations.
The ordinance passed in 2014 — ordinance 2013-20 — was “designed for the incremental development of large master-planned communities,” town documents show. But that ordinance also deleted what Lincoln said he interpreted as the law prohibiting rental for less than 30 days in residential zones and replaced it with a clause that he argues does not have the effect of law.
“What you get from that section is it’s the purpose of the ordinance to expressly prohibit tourism uses, but no other part of the ordinance accomplishes that purpose,” Lincoln said in an interview.
The town, in its response to the letter of contest for the citations, dismissed Lincoln’s argument that the town did not have a legal framework to prohibit short-term rentals on Longboat Key.
“Please be advised that your clients' property at 511 Gulf Links Lane is expressly prohibited from being utilized as tourism use for remuneration,” wrote Allen Parsons, planning, zoning and building director, in a letter dismissing the citations.
Mooney-Portale said the town has the authority cite to individuals because the use of a residential property for tourism is prohibited by its definition in the code book. A residential property is defined by the Longboat Key Zoning Code as a property designed and used for occupancy for no fewer than 30 days.
“But what the town has asserted in citations and other statements is that [short-term rentals are] prohibited by 158.132 and I don’t think that works,” Lincoln said.
With Jacobs’ and Jones’ citations dismissed administratively — and without Code Enforcement Board action — the issues raised by Lincoln will not be addressed in a public forum or court.
No other citations have been dismissed since July when the tool was put on the books.