Council Will Have First Reading of Ordinance Better Regulating Short-Term Rentals

SC Staff Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the proposed ordinance would help the city regulate residential home rentals. The proposed ordinance would help the city regulate all short term rentals on the island.

Councilwoman Holly Smith discussed a proposed ordinance aimed at helping Sanibel better enforce regulations of short term rentals on the island, during the Aug. 20 special meeting. Council ultimately voted to have a first reading of the ordinance on Monday, Sept. 9.

The number of Sanibel vacation rentals listed on sites such as Airbnb and Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) has grown by 12.64 percent over the last year, to 340 properties on the island. That’s according to a recent study by AllTheRooms, a vacation rental search engine which based the figures on the number of homes on the market via rental sites.

The City of Sanibel doesn’t regulate how vacation rentals are advertised, but simply requires a business tax receipt. Under the proposed ordinance, a more thorough registration and licensure for all short term rentals would be established in order for the city to more effectively enforce the section of Sanibel Code that states compliant resort dwellings have no rental time or frequency limit and non-resort dwellings must be rented for four consecutive weeks or more.

Smith said there is evidence of blatant disregard for the rules by individuals and companies on the island due to the growth of vacation rental platforms and the city able to only identify a fraction of code violators. The drafted ordinance states rapid occupancy turnover caused by short-term renting can be disruptive to neighborhoods and lead to issues such as diminished public safety, excessive noise, increased on-street parking and impacts on public works.

The purpose of this ordinance is to help us preserve the character of our residential neighborhoods and the island in its entirety, which is at risk due to the influx of vacation rentals not in compliance with our current zoning and regulation,” said Smith, who will continue working with city staff on registration and licensure requirements.

Short-term renting in residential neighborhoods has become an issue for communities throughout the nation and gained the serious attention of the Florida League of Mayors, of which Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane was recently appointed president. “During the Mayor’s board meeting, we adopted water quality, but this certainly came in as a close second,” said Ruane.

The 12.64 percent increase of Sanibel short-term rentals listed on vacation rental platforms in the past year was low compared to similar-sized cities like nearby Fort Myers Beach at 70 percent, according to the study by AllTheRooms. Councilman Jason Maughan said he “didn’t think it was too much to ask to remain a community as opposed to a destination entirely.”

The Sept. 9 City Council meeting will convene at 9 a.m. in MacKenzie Hall at City Hall, 800 Dunlop Rd.

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