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Palm Coast, FL – February 20, 2015 – For three years, property owners in The Hammock were able to convert single-family residential homes into short-term vacation rentals without restrictions. That’s the period of time between 2011, when the Florida legislature preempted control of short-term vacation rentals by local governments, till 2014, when they returned many of the preempted items to local authority. Local governments still cannot adopt controls over either the term (length) or the frequency of rental contracts.
The intent of Florida’s 2011 preemption was to help distressed homeowners who could not sell their homes during the Great Recession. It allowed them to rent their homes to help cover carrying costs. But, as is often the case, politicians do not foresee unintended consequences.
During that three year period, some savvy investors bought distressed property or built new multi-bedroom homes for the sole purpose of renting them as short-term vacation rentals. Called mini-hotels by some, these properties were advertised to accommodate, in some cases, more than 20 people. Florida legislators, prodded by upset Ocean Hammock residents and by Flagler’s state representatives, succeeded in getting much of the preemption legislation reversed. That put the ball back into Flagler County’s court.
County staff crafted a draft ordinance, followed by a supportive endorsement from the dysfunctional Planning & Development Board. Next stop; the Board of County Commissioners. But by the time the draft ordinance reached the BOCC for first reading, several problems with its reach, its fairness and its ability to withstand a legal challenge had surfaced. GoToby.com strongly opposed the original draft for those reasons.
Ocean Hammock residents were on one side; investors and vacation rental management companies on the other. The gulf between them, filled with strong emotions. It was wide and it was deep.
Many residents felt they had bought into a single-family community. They did not like the fact that mini-hotels popped up in their neighborhood, or worse, next door. They wanted to get rid of them.
On the other hand, the investors had spent a lot of money on a perfectly legal venture. In fact, they initially performed a service to the neighborhood by taking distressed properties off the market and turning them into productive properties that contributed their fair share towards the community association, rather than overburdening paying residents with homeowner association expenses.
After three months of back and forth discussions, which included stakeholders from both sides of the argument, a new draft was approved last night by the BOCC following the requisite tweaking by commissioners.
It’s not perfect. Neither side is totally happy with it, but it’s done. I was impressed with the civility of the public comments and the commissioners’ deliberation. I was also glad that the meeting did not go on until 2:00 A.M. as did the recent Hammock Beach Club lodge/hotel marathon session.
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