SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Vacation rental regulations have been a topic in Sarasota city commission meetings for years now. This week, city leaders advanced plans to expand an existing ordinance regulating short-term rentals from the barrier islands to citywide.
Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch says over the years, it has become clear that the issues including parties, noise, trash and safety concerns are not limited to the islands.
“This is happening in our neighborhoods in Arlington Park, Laurel Park and all over the city. All of the neighborhoods have come out and said we are experiencing it too, please help us too,” said Ahearn-Koch.
Kelly Brown has lived in the Gillespie Park neighborhood for seven years and says in that time, the changes have been pretty significant.
“We have gone from having some really great long-term renter neighbors to now having Airbnb rentals, a minimum of two on every block in our neighborhood now,” said Brown. “They park on the sidewalks so you can’t walk your dog down the sidewalk, the trash cans are out all week long because they just leave them on the curb and I’ve got one directly behind me that every weekend is a party because they don’t follow the seven day rule. So now the quiet enjoyment of my backyard, it’s pretty much gone whenever there is a renter in there.”
Brown and others on the city’s mainland are glad to see city leaders advance the plans to expand the ordinance.
It’s estimated there are around 700 short-term vacation rentals in operation within city limits off the barrier islands.
With the expansion will also come a new fee structure to cover the cost of the program.
“Right now, the cost about $130,000 a year. It is projected when we go citywide, that in the second year it is going to be $315,000. We have heard from those same residents that are being impacted in these neighborhoods by these hotel houses, and they don’t want to be for this program, so we had to up the fees so that the fee structure could cover the cost of this program,” said Commissioner Ahearn-Koch.
Right now, the application fee is $250 and the renewal rate is $150. The new fee structure is slated to be $500 for the application and $350 for renewals. The costs will cover the cost of code enforcement officers that will be dedicated to the regulating the city’s short-term rentals.
“It is basically keeping people safe, limiting the number of bedrooms in the house, and raising the fees to cover the cost of the program so we can regulate it,” said the commissioner.
It’s unclear when the issue will be back before the commission for a first reading and public hearing.