MANATEE -- The Florida Senate OK'd a bill Wednesday to return control of vacation rental properties to local communities.
The bill would reverse a 3-year-old measure that stripped local governments of the ability to regulate such properties, with some grandfathered exceptions. Senate Bill 356 passed with an amendment prohibiting local government minimum-stay requirements of longer than a week, with some exceptions.
Vacation rentals are defined as houses rented to tourists on a short-term basis. The amended bill passed 37-2, according to the Senate website.
"I'm pleased the bill passed by an extremely large margin," said state Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who authored the amendment. "It's on its way to the House now, so I'm interested to see what
they do with it. Its passage is positive for our community. It represents a fair compromise that will go a long way in solving the problems we have had over the past years with regard to vacation rental."
Among those supporting the bill was the mayor of the city of Anna Maria.
"I think it's great. It's something that we can live with," said Mayor SueLynn.
The Florida Association of Counties supported returning control to local communities.
"The priority here is that counties have home rule authority," said Cragin Mosteller, FAC communications director. "This should be an individual county decision. Some counties support vacation rentals and some want to see vacation rentals in only one area -- we will support legislation that empowers our counties the most."
The Senate bill was opposed by the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, which called it "a huge step backward from protecting the private property rights of Floridians."
"Since 2011, local governments have been barred from unfairly targeting vacation rental properties with bans and other onerous regulation," said Paul Hayes, president of the rental managers association. "Were this bad legislation to become law, vacation rental property owners could see their rights at the local level completely discounted. It's not fair and it damages a $31 billion portion of Florida's tourism economy."
Before the Senate bill can become law, it must also win approval in the Florida House of Representatives and from the governor.
State Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, is the sponsor of the measure passed Wednesday.
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.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.