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Town staff tackles confusing code

Armed with a confusing code it can’t change and wants to keep in place, the town created a document that’s easier to understand than the code itself.

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  • | 10:00 a.m. April 1, 2015
Code Enforcement Officer Chris Elbon designed an easy-to-understand brochure about the town’s rental restriction ordinance.
Code Enforcement Officer Chris Elbon designed an easy-to-understand brochure about the town’s rental restriction ordinance.
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Just like many ordinances and codes on Longboat Key, the town’s two-sentence rental restriction ordinance is confusing and hard to interpret.

But unlike the codes the town is currently working to revise to make it easier for residents and even town staff to understand, the rental restriction ordinance won’t change.

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale says it’s a grandfathered ordinance requiring the rental of residential properties for payment have an occupancy term of at least 30 days.

“If we modify it, we’re in danger of losing the ordinance altogether,” Mooney-Portale told the Longboat Key Code Enforcement Board at a January meeting.

So code board members, some of whom said they were hearing rental restriction complaints, asked in January for staff to come up with a way to make the ordinance easier for residents to understand.

Code Enforcement Officer Chris Elbon proposed creating an easy-to-understand brochure that received support from the code board in January.

Elbon then met with Town Manager Dave Bullock, Assistant Town Manager Anne Ross, Mooney-Portale and Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray to review the ordinance and agree on its interpretation.

With approval from his superiors and the code board, Elbon, who took graphic design courses during his nine years in the Army, designed a brochure explaining the rental ordinance in a simple question-and-answer format that he presented to the board at its March 9 regular meeting.

The pamphlet states that property owners are permitted to rent their residential property once a year to a single family for less than 30 days. A property owner can also rent a residential property 11 other times per year for a 30-day period.

 “When you read the ordinance, it leaves you scratching your head,” Elbon said. “I think the brochure clears it all up.”

The brochure is available at Town Hall, the Planning, Zoning and Building Department and the Public Safety Complex.

Because property owners need to obtain a business tax receipt before they can rent their homes, they can pick up a copy of the brochure when they complete  paperwork for the annual tax.

Despite concerns from code board members who say they’re hearing complaints about property owners violating the rental ordinance, Elbon said he’s only had four complaints about the rental ordinance since he became the town’s code enforcement officer in September.

Two of those complainants were misinformed about the ordinance. One complaint was valid and found in violation; and the fourth was unsubstantiated.

“The best compliance is through education,” Elbon said. “I’m hopeful this brochure will help educate.”

An Urban Land Institute panel proposed relaxing 30-day rental restriction in its 2013 study of the Key, but commissioners immediately nixed the suggestion.