It was an off-the-order issue that sparked controversy, leading to Marco Island residents taking turns to the microphone at Monday’s city council meeting to emphasize their views on vacation rentals. Residents will vote on the ordinance on August 23, and many are angry at its impact.
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“The goal of the group is not registration,” emphasizes Martin Winter. “It’s about regulation and the ultimate goal of banning short-term rentals. It will mean higher taxes, falling home prices, and years of litigation. It does not take into account the opinion of the majority.”
CEO Erik Brechnitz said the board had no choice. They had to put the point on the ballot. A vacation rental registration ordinance would require people renting for 30 days or less to register and comply with rules regarding noise, parking, landscaping and other location-based regulations.
“Once the application was received and found to be sufficient, we had three options,” explained Brechnitz. “We could pass the regulation as presented, we could negotiate with the petitioners to try to change the regulation to make it more palatable, or we could put it to a vote. Those were our only three choices. We tried to negotiate with the petitioners but they refused, so we had no choice but to put it on the ballot and let voters decide.”
Still, residents want their voices heard, and they want the public to better understand what they are about to vote for.
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“The real intent behind what is being proposed is regulation that will severely limit, if not eliminate, many short-term rentals,” Howie Rice said. “The ordinance is riddled with these poison pills designed to make short-term rental absolutely impossible.”
Rice said the ordinance, taken literally, would ban any noise within 50 feet of the rental home,
“It could be air conditioning, a lawn mower, kids playing in the pool,” he said.
Rice said the first violation is $200, the second $500, the third $1,000, the fourth violation is a 180-day rent ban, and the fifth is a year-round rent ban.
“It’s a very strict regulation,” Rice said. “It’s a very draconian and severe regulation, and it’s intentional because it’s meant to put short-term rentals out of business.”
Marie Sanon has bought a house on Marco and rents out her apartment when she is not in town, and this is economically crucial for her.
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“We can only afford that because we rent while we wait for retirement,” she explained. “A lot of people rent until they retire. While I’m in favor of sensible restrictions that improve the quality of life on our island, I just find this ridiculous. And I do think that’s going to involve a lot of litigation that’s going to cost the city a lot of money. These restrictions are simply not appropriate for our way of life.”
Karen-Lynn Twyning said everything from children to dogs to bike bells can be loud.
“Instead of banning life, communication is key,” she stressed when she suggested leaving a note for noise offenders instead of an ordinance.
Ed Issler was the only proponent to speak. He talked about how cities across the state have similar ordinances that work.
“The regulation is not designed to stop short-term rentals. The regulation aims to make short-term rentals orderly,” he said.
Issler said in today’s world, people are afraid to go up to a renter or landlord and ask them to turn down the noise.
“People were attacked for that,” he said. “It’s not panic, lose all situation. Most Florida cities have a rental registry. They’re being implemented everywhere, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”
Marco Island residents will be able to vote on the ordinance in August. Visit the city’s website for more information on the proposed rules.
The rest of the Marco City Council meeting was much tamer. Building official Raul Perez gave a presentation on how the city must address the new condo inspection regulations.
Following the Surfside condo collapse on June 24, 2021, the state of Florida instituted mandatory milestone inspections to prevent future catastrophic building collapses. Homeowners associations are responsible for arranging the inspections and all costs and repairs. The controls are not carried out by the city. They are carried out by licensed architects or engineers.
The rule applies to all condominiums with three floors or more. They must be checked at the age of 25 and every 10 years thereafter. Perez said there are 172 buildings in Marco that are condominiums with three levels or more, and 99 of them need to be inspected before December 31, 2024. The other condos are not yet 25 years old. It is the city’s responsibility to determine which buildings must pass the milestone inspections and provide written notice if the association does not or repairs are required.
“If a club fails to plan or begin repairs within 365 days for any significant structural deterioration identified in the phase two inspection report, we must determine whether the building is safe for human occupancy,” Perez explained.
Perez told the council he will likely need three additional employees to complete this work.
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On Monday night, the council voted to name the dock, grandstands and pavilion at Mackle Park “Cale Model Yacht Sailing Center” in honor of Rocky Cale. Cale has led Summer Youth Sailing and other sailing programs there for 14 years.
Bike Lane Committee member Al Musico gave an update on cycling on Marco. He said the goal is to have two types of trails: road trails for experienced cyclists and bike trails for beginners. He said construction will begin on Collier Blvd. alternative cycle path in early 2024 and construction of a North Barfield Pathway to begin in late 2023.
Beautification Advisory Committee member Mary Cummings suggested the city hire a professional landscape architect to design the plan for the beach access corridors. She said the committee will use experts from the Naples Botanical Gardens to teach plant knowledge and hopes to use Lorenzo Walker’s students to get ideas for a new bike rack design. Council members discussed the need for additional lighting at the beach entrances.
“There is no city ordinance that bans access to the beach at all times,” Councilor Joe Rola said. “If we want access to the beach, we need to light that path to keep people safe. If we don’t want access, we want lights to make sure nobody’s there.”