SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Residents in St. Armands Circle and Lido Key were shaken last week following a shooting at a vacation rental that sent two people to the hospital.
It happened around 1 a.m. at a rental on Jackson Drive and South Washington Drive. On Monday, Sarasota police announced a 15-year-old boy from Punta Gorda was arrested in connection with the shooting.
Residents on the barrier island have complained about the so-called “hotel houses” for years.
The city implemented new standards to regulate the short-term rentals including, capped capacity and required registration among other things. However, some residents say issues involving late night parties, noise complaints and littering still exist.
“It is a concern for all of us. The character of our neighborhood has changed so drastically with these hotel houses, especially because it is really not a neighborhood anymore in some areas where it is just one cookie-cutter after another,” said longtime resident Marc Hayman. “There’s no sense of community and there’s no sense of respect for other people property either and I think that goes hand-in-hand with this whole dilemma here that we have been trying to get the city to do some thing about for years.”
Hayman and other residents feel it comes down to enforcement, or a lack thereof. They’d like to see city leaders be more stringent with the rules in order to restore their neighborhoods.
“It seems there is no enforcement task force that can really even deal with the complaints. Right now, it is just we call the police after midnight, but they just get a slap on the wrist and so nothing really comes of it,” said Hayman.
Jim Ludwig, the Vice President of the Coalition of City Neighborhoods and local Lido Key resident feels the regulations have led to some behavioral changes, but more must be done to address concerns of residents citywide.
“Initially, when we were all working on this, we wanted it to be citywide. The city commissioners were, a couple of them were a little bit anxious about making it citywide. We settled at that point for it just being on the island, but we knew then, we were going to go citywide at some point. The hue and cry now is, as we see empty lots throughout all of our neighborhoods in the city put up very large hotel house kinds-of-structures that it is time to do it,” said Ludwig.
Last week, Commissioner Jen Ahearn Koch told WFLA she supports the city wide regulations.
“This is a beautiful city and we are a safe city and we want to continue to be that way. We have to address this as best as we can, and as quickly as we can,” said Ahearn Koch.
Commissioner Erik Arroyo, however, said he won’t support expanding the parameters.
“I am going to be against this because we are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Even if there was a problem, that necessarily would not fix that problem,” said Arroyo. “We do have laws in place that need to be enforced and we are listening to them, but also we have to juxtapose the concerns of the citizens against the property rights of property owners. In the end, it has to be a balancing act.”
The commissioner agreed with residents who believe enforcement is an issue on the barrier islands, but felt everyone needs to work together to find a solution.
“Speak to us, speak to your elected representatives, call us, email us, meet with us because there is something that we can do on Lido that with what currently stands, it is a matter of enforcement and all we need to do is hear their concerns, see if something needs to be tweaked with the solution that we found out there, and seeing what is working and what isn’t because the reality is, this is our community and we are all responsible for maintaining it,” Arroyo added.
It’s unclear when the issue of short-term rentals will be back on the city’s official agenda, but many anticipate it to be in the near future.