Short-term rentals have long been restricted on Longboat Key, but a bill filed in the state Legislature by Sen. Greg Steube, who represents part of the island, would curtail the town’s ability to regulate such enterprises.
The bill revokes municipalities’ rights to regulate short-term rentals on private property, allowing anyone with a home in Florida to rent for any amount of time, granted they obtain a license that would cost no more than $1,000.
Longboat residents are restricted to one rental every 30 days, though some condominium associations have their own rules.
When Joseph McElmeel, a Longboat Key resident and president of the Republican Club of Longboat Key, heard about Steube’s bill, he wrote a call-to-action message to his fellow club members.
“This Draconian measure effectively abolishes the concept of ‘single family neighborhoods’ and is a full-fledged assault on home rule and homeowners,” McElmeel wrote in his email, which included Steube’s contact information.
Steube also received the email, and responded.
He remarked about McElmeel’s support of his former Republican competitor in the 2016 primary, requested to be taken off McElmeel’s email distribution list and wrote he’d “not ever” attend another Republican Club of Longboat Key event and would encourage his fellow Republicans to do the same.
“I suppose you prefer the government tell you how you can use and not use your property,” Steube wrote in response to McElmeel. “I believe in our constitutional right to private property and believe you should do what you see fit with your own private property.”
Steube could not be reached for comment.
McElmeel, in an interview, repeated his opposition to Steube’s proposal.
“Isn’t that the foundation of the Republicans that we want laws passed at the local level and not the state or the national level?” McElmeel asked.
Allowing broader use of short-term rentals on Longboat Key would be a “disaster” for many residential communities on the island, said Pat Zunz, a former commissioner and a member of the Longboat Key Foundation and the town’s revitalization task force.
A few houses near Zunz’s north-end home are rented for a week or 10 days at a time, Zunz said. “The noise is terrific,” she said.
Zunz also said it’s unlikely anyone on the island would support Steube’s bill.
“It really is a disaster,” Zunz said. “You can have multiple people in the house next door to you. You can have houses taken down and larger houses built for the purpose of small hotels.”
Bob Appel, a board member for Longboat Key North, which represents more than 800 families, said communities need to regulate rental properties. Giving that authority to the state would change the outlook for community leaders, Appel said.
“I know of three families who had moved out of Anna Maria island, who had been there for multiple decades, because they didn’t want the activity and the traffic and the garbage and the noise of people right next door in a residential community,” Appel said. “I wouldn’t want to see that happen on Longboat.”