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FL - A community divided as short-term rental vote nears

Accusations of spreading false information, scary stories about projected skyrocketing costs to taxpayers and the threat of lawsuits were laid out before Marco Island City Council for more than an hour Monday evening, as residents spoke on the hot topic of vacation rentals.

The fight has been heating up ever since the council added the proposed ordinance to the Aug. 23 ballot. When a petition for the suggested rule got enough signatures, council voted to put it on the ballot. The proposed ordinance would require vacation rentals, defined as any property rented for fewer than 30 days, more than three times a year, to register with the city and adhere to new regulations such as a stricter noise ordinance, fire and city inspections, parking rules, sleeping requirements and more. Now people on both sides are fighting for votes.

Lori Reinalda fears the rule is unreasonable for families with children.

“One example of the unreasonable items: noise,” Reinalda began. “I have six grandkids. They love to visit and play outside by the pool. There is already a noise ordinance for both homeowners and renters. This referendum is exposing a much greater noise ordinance for vacation rentals. The words: any sound 25 feet from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. or 50 feet from 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. gives any unreasonable neighbor a reason to complain about any noise. Does that mean my grandchildren can play outside in the pool, but my vacation renters cannot? This bill is not a reasonable or simple registration bill. Obviously, this proposal is a scam with a hidden agenda.”

Elaine Rigas agrees the bill is not family friendly.

“I find this anti-family, outlawing children over the age of 13 from sleeping on a sleeper sofa or couch,” she began. “The ordinance will discriminate against children and families. Do they have to ask for birth certificates? If someone suspects that someone is not the appropriate age, a neighbor could call in. What kind of people want to turn Marco Island into this police state? This is unwelcoming. This is not my vision of Marco Island.”

Kathy Dennis says there is no city plan for timely inspections if the bill passes.

“If this passes no new bookings as of Aug. 24,” she spewed. “No new staff has been hired. There are 2,000 homes that have to be inspected and not enough staff. This could take a year or more for the city to perform these inspections. Would this prevent 2,000 vacation homes from making new bookings while they wait for inspections? If you don’t want your tax bill to triple, vote no.”

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