County Commissioner Bob Solari’s Commentary on Short-Term Rentals

Jackie and Bob

     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.

Sincerely,

Bob Solari

3 thoughts on “County Commissioner Bob Solari’s Commentary on Short-Term Rentals

  1. Mr. Solari presents a relatively uninformed and one-sided view of the short term rental (less than 30 days) transient commercial lodging establishment business, which is operating in non-commercial zoned areas of IRC, as grey market, unlicenced, ‘motel or B&B type establishments’. The regulations of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), of the State of Fla, clearly define such rentals of less than 30 days as ‘operating a transient public lodging establishment”. These transient public lodging establishments are defined in Fla Statute 509.242, and include hotel, motel, VACATION RENTAL, transient apartment, B&B, etc. As such, these ‘commercial business establishments’ are required to obtain DBPR issued license before commencing operation. Such businesses are also required to collect and pay Sales Tax to the State of Fla, and County Tourism Development Tax (aka Transient Occupancy Tax or ‘bed tax’) to the County Clerk of IRC (who serves as tax collector for this type of tax). This means these public lodging establishments must be registered are report taxes to the County Clerk. Many counties also require such ‘businesses’ to undertake inspections prior to commencing offering rooms or houses for daily or weekly lease. There is a need for posting of fire evacuation notice on inside door of each unit, checking the fire sprinkler system, confirming the County Code Enforcement has 24/7 contact number for issues, posting of the business license outside next to front door, assuring that rental ads for the units indicate the business license number issued, etc. We should also understand that such daily or weekly leases are not subject to landlord/tenant laws, but fall under hotel owner/guest laws–ie there is no eviction notice required, etc. And in cases of hotels, motels and B&B, there are strict occupancy limits in rooms, and parking provisions, and on site managers to control activity of guests. In ‘unlicenced’ grey market ‘vacation home rentals’, there is no control of 2 AM parties by the pool, excessive occupancy, noise and bad behavior, etc. This is not merely hypothetical—in Dahlia Rd, in Vero’s Central Beach, just a few blocks from Mr. Solari’s home in posh Riomar area, a group of 5-7 teenagers from Miami (several underage) rented a vacation home for the weekend through the ‘gig’ economy vendor Airbnb, partying and terrorizing the neighbors, robbing cars and so forth, and the ‘owner’ didn’t even have the names or id info on the ‘guests’ and had never even seen them. Who would want to live next to a ‘unit’ that has been turned into a transient ‘guest house’, with no manager or control over the occupants? These images of Dodger town ball players are bogus, trying to pluck the strings of a bygone era. The internet has enabled a huge new industry that threatens the safety, peace and tranquility of our community. The majority of owners of these STR ‘vacation homes’ are investors, often not even from the local area, using vacation home rental management companies to ‘run their business’. They don’t vote in our elections, don’t send their children to our schools, don’t attend our churches or otherwise participate in our communities. The ‘guests’ who come, often stay in overcrowded conditions (family reunion, etc) as a way to party on the cheap. That Solari says the county depends on tourism, should mean that he supports the legitimate hotel/motel business, and encourages this ‘regulated’ sector in ‘commercially zoned areas’. But the unlicenced—and most of the 700 rentals identified by the ‘blogger’ Dr. Miles Conway, who has been fighting against this spreading cancer for several years—rentals do little to promote tourism, rather causing declining property values and increased crime and disturbance. For example, on the North end of IRC’s beautiful barrier island, there are oceanfront houses that have been turned into ‘partyhouses’ every weekend, w/ reports of naked teens swimming in neighbors pools, fires on the beach, garbage left for days on the side of A1A in ripped plastic bags, etc. This situation was reported to County Commissioners, from letters submitted on record by Dr. Conway, which had been written by some of the North island oceanfront residents. Perhaps he failed to read them? Perhaps he needs to talk to the County Sheriff, who confirmed this was drawing large resources to answer disturbance calls on North island. Finally, the current unfortunate situation arose from the failure of Mr. Solari and his fellow Commissioners to do their homework several years ago, when against the recommendation of their own Planning Department, they tossed out the existing zoning controls on transient/short term rentals. The public comment hearing included 7-9 speakers against tossing the regulation, and 3 vacation rental business operators (including Delray Beach based Bill Waterman) saying it should be tossed. The 5-0 vote by Commissioners, clearly against the pubic will, opened the doors to the current situation, where disruptive ‘vacation homes’ and STR businesses can now only be controlled by new and awkward parking restrictions, noise ordinances, etc. Even ‘party center’ Ft. Lauderdale has started drafting strict ordinances to control this plague of daily and weekly rentals in residential areas. Doesn’t Mr. Solari understand?

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  2. Pingback: Reader Response to Commissioner Solari’s Commentary on Short Term Rentals | Vero Communiqué

  3. Mr. Solari cares about the local economy If you buy a home in an area where vacation rentals always have been, then thats your choice. Its not a,matter for local government. There are countless condos, adult only communities and gated communities where you can move to. Dont move in to a community where vacation rentals are allowed and try to change that or burden these owners with constant harassment and trespassing, vandalizing to ruin their investments and by all means, dont use local government to change what Florida is and always has been a vacation destination #1. In the entire country.

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