A property owner's appeal of $350 in fines for twice violating Longboat Key's short-term rental rules was denied Monday by the town's Code Enforcement Board.
Irene Hagman challenged two citations she’d been issued in July for renting her property at 541 Birdie Lane, one of two properties she and her husband own on the island. For the first citation, Hagman was fined $100. The second citation brought a $250 fine.
“To me, it’s clear cut,” said Code Enforcement Board member Beverly Shapiro said. “I see no reason for us to contest the town or our code enforcement officer.”
While Hagman said she is not opposed to the town’s rules banning short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods, she appealed on the grounds the rentals had been booked before the town enacted its on-the-spot citation regulations on June 4. Previously, code offenders had to be served with two written notices of violation before they could be called before the Code Enforcement Board to possibly be cited and fined.
Hagman said she has for years leased her property for less than 30 days and had never been cited. So, she said, she had no apprehension in continuing to do so after the new regulations went into effect.
“We were under the understanding that this hadn't been against the rules,” Hagman testified before the Code Enforcement Board.
But the board wasn’t swayed. While board members heard contests to each citation individually, their decision was based on their interpretation of town rules as strict and clear: rentals less than 30 days in residential neighborhoods are not allowed.
“We’ve got the law as it's stated, and that’s what we have to deal with,” said Code Enforcement Board member Joel Mangle.
This is the first time someone has contested a code enforcement officer's citation since the new rules began. Other offenses subject to immediate citations -- similar to a speeding ticket -- pertain to sea turtle protection, unapproved businesses and restrictions on construction.
The town has been focusing its efforts on citing short-term rental violations in Country Club Shores, Town Manager Tom Harmer said weeks ago.