Bradenton's Sen. Galvano proposes amendment to vacation rental bill

skennedy@bradenton.comMarch 20, 2014 

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After passage of a law in 2011 , which forbade local governments from "regulating, restricting or prohibiting" vacation rentals, with some grandfathered exceptions, large complexes began sprouting on single lots in Holmes Beach. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

GJEFFERIES@BRADENTON.COM Buy Photo

MANATEE -- State Sen. Bill Galvano has filed an amendment to a bill set for consideration Thursday in the Florida Senate addressing vacation rental regulations, but one local official said Wednesday she opposed the amendment.

Senate Bill 356 would repeal a provision in a law passed in 2011 prohibiting local governments from regulating vacation rentals, which are houses rented to tourists on a short-term basis.

If Galvano's amendment is approved, and versions of a similarly amended measure pass the Florida Legislature, it would allow regulation of vacation rentals with one exception.

"The amendment says local ordinances cannot require minimum stays greater than a week," said Galvano, R-Bradenton.

"It's a compromise position I believe will help both sides," he said, referring to those who favor repeal, such as some mayors of Anna Maria Island communities, and those who oppose repeal, such as the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association Inc.

Galvano said his bill would allow local governments to regulate in any way they deemed proper, save one -- the minimum-stay requirement.

"With this, you're getting toward traditional vacation rental, versus hotel-like rental that has become a problem," said Galvano.

But Holmes Beach City Commissioner Jean Peelen said she opposed the amendment, arguing a complete repeal of the 2011 provision is necessary.

"For us, assuming it's not retroactive, it really wouldn't have a big effect," said Peelen about the amendment.

"I, as an elected official, still think it's outrageous the state took over our right to regulate our cities," said Peelen, a Holmes Beach city commissioner.

"The cities in Florida are guaranteed the right to home rule in the constitution of Florida, and the state Legislature snatched it," she said, adding she could only support the senate bill minus Galvano's amendment.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said he would have to see the language of the bill and the amendment to determine his position.

"I'm very much concerned about home rule that our local governments have," Shearon said. "I guess where I'm coming from (is) that's the reason we have home rule, is so local governments can determine what's best for their communities instead of the state mandating what should be done."

Shearon said none of the local legislators who will help decide the issue, including Galvano and state Reps. Jim Boyd and Greg Steube, both R-Bradenton, had contacted him.

Boyd said Wednesday he had been working closely with a sponsor of the House version of the bill "to try to do the right thing for everybody concerned."

"My understanding is he will introduce an amendment this week that both gives some control back to the communities, and doesn't put a moratorium on rentals," said Boyd. "It's a great compromise, a great solution. My friends at the beach, they agree it's a reasonable solution to the issue."

In 2011, lawmakers passed HB 883, which forbade local governments from "regulating, restricting or prohibiting" vacation rentals, with some grandfathered exceptions. Boyd and Steube voted in favor; Galvano was not a member of the Legislature that year.

Since then, local communities in Manatee and elsewhere have experienced an influx of mini-hotels in residential neighborhoods, which neighbors complain cause parking, noise and trash headaches their local governments are prohibited from resolving.

Vacation rental organizations argue owners of such properties have a right to rent them, and they contribute to a healthy local economy through tourists they attract.

Lori Killinger, who represents the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, Inc., said, "We appreciate Sen. Galvano’s attempt to fix a bill that would ignore the rights of vacation rental property owners."

"Unfortunately, even if the Galvano amendment is adopted, there is still too much opportunity for these property owners to be unfairly targeted and possibly pushed out of business," she added. Killinger said the association remains committed to "finding a balance between the property rights of these small business owners and the needs of local government.”

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