Beach renourishment and laws relating to vacation rentals are tops on the list of legislative priorities for the Longboat Key Town Commission.
Protecting Longboat’s beaches remains a top priority for the town for the upcoming session in Tallahassee, as it is for coastal communities statewide. Though Longboat beaches haven’t suffered erosion like that of neighboring Lido Key, financial and legislative commitments to preserving the beaches were at the top of the priorities list Town Manager Dave Bullock presented to the commission at its Sept. 15 meeting.
As Bullock noted during meeting, much of the town's priorities focus on maritime issues, as these have significant effects on the island. These include supporting legislative efforts to reduce red tide blooms and encourage water quality preservation. The town is also asking the state legislature to recognize damages from future sea level rise and to begin planning for those changes at the statewide level.
Taxation policies were a focal point for most of the town’s other priorities. Longboat seeks to expand usage of tourist taxes, also known as bed taxes, toward infrastructure projects. Hotel and tourism industries hope to keep the current system, which commits revenue from these taxes on tourism-based projects, such as marketing and advertising.
Coastal communities in Manatee County account for 58% of the tourism development taxes, and Bullock said Longboat would like to see a share of that money used for infrastructure development on the island. In previous legislative sessions, this restriction was adjusted for several panhandle counties which were able to reallocate their tax revenues for expanded law enforcement along the coastal towns and cities.
“With that door opened, we’re trying to open it just a little bit more,” Bullock said.
The town is also asking its state senators and representatives to fight for Longboat’s right to manage short-term property rentals. Longboat is among a handful of Florida towns with grandfathered clauses in their local ordinances permitting them to have greater authority to regulate short-term vacation rentals, including those through such services as Airbnb.
That ties into the yearly battle to preserve local government’s home rule authority. State lawmakers have proposed actions that would restrict local governments from imposing any new regulations on businesses unless expressly authorized by the state.
“We are, like every other government in Florida, opposing legislation that pre-empts home rule authority,” Bullock said. “We’ll continue to say that, even if we are howling at the moon.”
These priorities will be presented to the Manatee and Sarasota County legislative delegation meetings. The Sarasota County legislative delegation was scheduled this week. The Manatee County meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19.