Jackie and Bob Solari
WE JUST RECEIVED THIS COMMENTARY on Indian River County short-term rentals by Commissioner Solari. We did not solicit his commentary and were surprised when he sent it to us in a Word document asking if we would publish it as an exclusive in Vero Communique.
August 17, 2015
Short-term rentals, also known as home rentals and vacation rentals have become an issue for an area in the South Beach portion of the County in 2015. Members of the South Beach Property Owners Association have come before the Board of County Commissioners asking for a very stringent ordinance against short-term rentals (STR). The Board is taking a serious look at the problem and will I believe, put in place a set of solutions which is good for the entire County while balancing the property rights of all concerned.
For purposes here, a STR is the rental of a single-family home for less than 30 days. It is important to separate STRs from the use of single-family homes for events or other commercial uses. It is easy to see how the renting out of homes for events such as weddings, parties or business gatherings is a use that is incompatible with single-family neighborhoods. The Board has already moved ahead with an ordinance against such uses, which should be in place by the end of September.
STRs have long been in use in Indian River County. When the Dodgers held spring training at Dodgertown, many citizens took the opportunity to rent their homes to ball players for short periods of time. A blogger notes that there are as many as 700 homes available for rent in the County.
It is not clear whether the current problem in the South Beach arose from STRs, event rentals or because of two neighbors who could not get along. What is clear is that the knee jerk reaction requested by a few, in effect regulating them out of existence, would have been an inappropriate response, if only because many issues with STRs have yet to be publically discussed. Because of this, the Board has established a STR committee, which will take a comprehensive look at the problem and make recommendations to the Board.
Three issues that have not yet been discussed are geographical differences, generational differences and the fast growing “gig” economy.
Geographically, all areas of Indian River County are not the same. South Beach may have a STR problem. According to public statements by at least two Sebastian City Council members, Sebastian does not. The Fellsmere City Manager recently said that STRs are not an issue. As a Commissioner, I have heard of no STR problems in the unincorporated areas of the County on the west side of the bridges. An ordinance for the entire County must take into account the entire County and not a single portion of it.
Generational differences also need to be discussed. More settled baby boomers, may not wish to rent their cars or homes to others, but millennials do not share the same bias and are more willing, if only for financial reasons, to rent out their homes.
The “gig” economy, also known as the on-demand economy, is one of the fastest growing areas of the American economy. Two leaders of the on-demand economy, Uber and Airbnb did not exist a few years ago and are now valued at $50 billion and $25 billion, respectively. It would seem irrational for a County, which has worked so hard over the past years and is so dependant on tourism, to rush through a coercive ordinance, which would do away with most STR without so much as one conversation about the impact the ordinance might have on jobs and economy of the County.
If there are 700 STRs in Indian River County, an ordinance, which decimates their number will cost jobs and have a significant negative impact on our County’s economy. Before the Board acts hastily and puts people out of work, it has a duty to the community to see if there are less onerous steps that can be taken to manage the problem. This is in fact what the Board has begun to do with the proposed ordinances against commercial events in single-family homes.
For the nearly seven years that I have been on the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners the Board has showed a reluctance to use the coercive arm of the state to modify the behavior or the County’s residents. We have nonetheless tried to pro-actively address all issues that have come before it, from the Great Recession to the threat of pill mills, to the threat of All Aboard Florida in a timely and pro-active manner. There is every reason to believe that the Board will do the same with the STR issue.