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Flagler County Adopts a Short-Term Vacation Rental Ordinance

This was a legislatively induced crisis. Dealt a lemon by the state, the Board of County Commissioners made lemonade. The new ordinance strikes a balance between competing interests.

By Toby Tobin
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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.

For further background read:

Revised Flagler Short-term Vacation Rental Draft Ordinance Surfaces

Commentary: More Thoughts on Flagler County’s Short-term Vacation Rental Ordinance

Florida Is Watching: What Will Flagler Do With Short-term Vacation Rental Ordinance?

Flagler BOCC to Hear 1st Reading of Short-Term Vacation Rental Ordinance

Flagler BOCC will Continue Short-term Vacation Rental Ordinance for Staff Rework

Commentary: Flagler County’s STEALTHY Short-term Vacation Rental Ordinance Draft

reader comments
Enacted Version
Posted by Paul N
Feb 24, 2015, 10:31 am
Is the 1/23/15 "proposed" version listed on the county web site the final approved version?
Home Rule
Posted by Ron
Feb 21, 2015, 11:42 am
We need to return full home rule back to our local officials. HB 883 was a taken of property rights of all the citizens of Florida for the benefit of a few investors. The vacation management industry lied to our representatives. We need our representatives to restore full control to our local officials through out the state. One size shoe does not fit all concerns. Let our local officials decide how they will deal with the vacation rentals industry.

Call you state representatives or email them. This mistake must be corrected.
Reply to Theresa C.
Posted by Toby
Feb 21, 2015, 3:09 am
I think your choice of moral equivalency is a bit over the top, but I see the point you are trying to make.
What you don’t understand is that my position has always been neutral. I only argued for an ordinance that was legally defensible. Anything less would have prolonged through protracted legal hoops, the rental trend already underway.

This ordinance is not perfect, but I do think it might withstand a legal challenge.

I lived next door (six houses away) to the South Carolina property involved in the case of Lucas vs. South Carolina Coastal Council, the case that led to Florida’s Bert Harris Act. The possibility of a successful legal challenge to the original draft ordinance was real.
Legal vs. Moral
Posted by Theresa C.
Feb 20, 2015, 9:54 pm
"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."

Ahhh, don't think so, Toby. The association was never hurting financially. The ones hurt financially are the ones who LIVE near these hotel houses!

And, legal doesn't mean moral. Think slavery; not allowing blacks/women to vote. They were legal at one time, too.

 
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Don "Toby" Tobin is a licensed real estate professional affiliated with Grand Living Realty. Toby is a member of the Flagler County Association of Realtors®, the Florida Association of Realtors, Enterprise Flagler, Flagler Home Builders Association, and the National Association of Realtors.

GoToby.com proivdes real estate news, commentary, and analysis for Palm Coast and Flagler Country Florida, as well as Realtor® referrals and consultation to buyers, sellers, and developers.