The city is still reviewing its options for regulating rental properties, an exercise that could soon be affected by new state laws.
As city officials and residents discuss the best strategy for managing short-term rentals on Sarasota’s barrier islands, their attention is being drawn to the north as state lawmakers consider legislation that would restrict local regulation of the properties.
Since late 2019, the St. Armands Residents Association has asked the city to take action to address properties the neighborhood calls “hotel houses.” Neighbors say these homes, located in residential areas and rented out on a short-term basis to groups that can exceed 20 people, function as commercial properties and are an unwelcome intrusion.
Although the City Commission voted in January to investigate its ability to regulate the construction and operation of the “hotel house” properties, staff indicated state law could complicate matters. The Florida Legislature has already restricted local governments from prohibiting short-term rentals, grandfathering in laws on the books prior to 2011.
Now bills under consideration in the House and Senate would prohibit cities and counties from applying special regulations to rental homes in residential areas. The House bill would void pre-2011 laws while the Senate maintains the grandfathering clause.
Regardless, St. Armands residents say there are opportunities for the city to take action. Chris Goglia, incoming president of the St. Armands Residents Association, sent an email Feb. 21 to city attorney Robert Fournier outlining potential options depending on whether the state adopts new rental laws.
Even if a bill does pass, Goglia offered a few concepts he thinks would still be viable. One example: The city could adopt regulations establishing a maximum number of people sleeping in a residential dwelling unit.
City staff has previously said it can be difficult to apply existing regulations.
“We don’t have police powers,” city development review planner Dan Greenberg said at Friday’s Sarasota County Council of Neighborhood Associations meeting.
Despite the challenges — and the prospect of new ones — St. Armands residents remain determined to address large vacation rental properties.
“There must be some threshold that this becomes not a residential use of a property,” Goglia said.
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