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Longboat Key Thursday, May 20, 2021 4 months ago

Longboat mayor asks DeSantis to veto home-based business bill

The bill would prohibit local governments from taking certain actions on the regulation of home-based businesses.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Mayor Ken Schneier of Longboat Key joined 36 other Florida mayors on Tuesday in writing to Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill that would limit local control of home-based business.

As of Thursday, the Florida League of Cities’ website shows the town is among 37 municipalities that have written the governor in opposition to House Bill 403. Bradenton Beach mayor John Chappie also wrote in opposition to the bill that would prohibit local governments from taking certain actions relating to the licensure and regulation of home-based businesses.

“We felt it [was] important to take a stance on this, I would say more in solidarity with other municipalities that may be dramatically affected by it than as a result of feared impacts on Longboat Key itself,” Schneier said.

Schneier wrote that if HB 403 if becomes law, it would pre-empt home rule powers and the abilities of local governments to balance competing property rights.

“The bill will void existing local ordinances or regulations that have tailored unique solutions to homeowner and business concerns,” Schneier wrote.

Schneier addressed his concern about the process of HB 403 narrowly passing the state Senate with a 19-18 vote on April 30.

“In a clear violation of Senate rules, three senators who were present in the Senate Chamber failed to record a vote,” Schneier wrote.

Public records show State Sens. Lauren Book (a Democrat from Plantation), Ileana Garcia (a Republican from Miami-Dade) and Linda Stewart (a Democrat from Orange County) did not vote on the measure.

“It may constitute a defect in the legislative approval itself,” Schneier said.

Also, the three votes could have swung the outcome of the pending legislation.

Florida League of Cities Field Advocacy Director Scott Dudley recognized Schneier and Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer for their advocacy on behalf of the town during the legislative session. During the May 13 ManaSota League of Cities meeting, Schneier and Harmer each received a Home Rule Hero Award.

In addition to the concerns about HB 403, Dudley also discussed how Senate Bill 522 failed, which would have given the state sole authority over short-term rental properties.

“There has been a constant push by Tallahassee [lawmakers] to pre-empt local issues back to control within the state,” Schneier said.

However, Schneier’s letter to DeSantis solely focused on the home-based bill.

“While the town supports entrepreneurship, it must balance the desire to operate a home-based business with the potential impacts on residential neighborhoods and residential property values,” Schneier wrote. “Zoning is an inherent function of local government.

“The primary purpose of zoning is to minimize incompatible uses and balance competing property rights. In practice, zoning is used to prevent new development or uses from unfairly entering with existing uses.”

Schneier wrote that the town, the Florida League of Cities and its lobbyists “engaged in good faith negotiations with legislators and interested stakeholders” to reach a compromise in Senate Bill 266.

Longboat Key’s mayor outlined three provisions included in SB 266 that were not in HB 403:

  • “The ability of local governments to set common-sense limitations on hours of operation. CS/HB 403 prohibits local governments from regulating a home-based business differently from other businesses in a commercial zone. The hours of operation for a business in a commercial district may not be appropriate for a business in a residential neighborhood.”
  • “The ability for local governments to place limits on business signs, exterior storage and traffic generated by home-based businesses. Again, these types of matters should be tailored to the residential setting where a home-based business operates rather than defaulting to the same regulations used in commercial or industrial zones.”
  • “The ability for local governments to prohibit business activities from occurring within the view of the street.”

Schneier mentioned how local governments use “common-sense requirements” on commercial uses of residential properties.

“For example, low-intensity uses such as professional offices may be compatible with residential neighborhoods in some cases, while high-intensity uses such as a repair yard or a 24-hour gym, may not be compatible under any condition,” Schneier wrote.

Schneier also mentioned how HB 403 got amended twice on April 29, the second-to-last day of the legislative session.

The Florida Senate requested for the House to return but the House adjourned before responding to the Senate’s request.

Normally, a bill heads to the governor’s desk when it passes the Senate and the House. However, the Senate’s request is the last dated action on the measure. It’s unclear whether the governor has the authority to sign HB 403.

If HB 403 becomes law, it would take effect on July 1.

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Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

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