INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — The Barrier Island Government Council held a news conference after its meeting at the Indian Rocks Beach Civic Auditorium on Sept. 25 to show a united front in support of home rule for each municipality’s right to determine if, when and how they will allow short-term rentals in their communities.
Some House bills that would have further eroded home rule stalled in the 2019 legislative session. However, it appears that these bills will again be addressed in Tallahassee in the coming session. According to the House of Representatives website, the bills in question, if passed, would give any property owner the “constitutionally protected right” to rent their property at will, and regulations, complaints, and compliance would be preempted to the state.
Indian Rocks Beach Mayor Joanne “Cookie” Kennedy opened by explaining the issue of self-governing when it comes to zoning and short-term rentals. Kennedy identified the primary concerns on the issue in beach communities as “safety, parking, noise, frequency, occupancy, local governance, short-term rentals and the environment.”
State Rep. Jennifer Webb, D-Gulfport, was guest speaker on the issue. Webb began with “home rule must be maintained.” In the last decade, legislative efforts to negate home rule are said to have undermined local governments’ authority to enforce town and city ordinances regarding short-term rentals unless they have been grandfathered in and without any recent changes or amendments to the original ordinance.
Webb commended the BIG-C on “striking a balance between what is good for commerce and what is good for the community.”
Each mayor that was present at the BIG-C meeting stood together in solidarity in favor of home rule and the corresponding short-term rental issues. Standing with Webb and Kennedy were the following mayors: Lawrence Lunn, Treasure Island; George Cretekos, Clearwater; Bill Queen, North Redington Beach; MaryBeth Henderson, Redington Shores; Patrick Soranno, Indian Shores; Joseph Manzo, Belleair Beach; Alan Johnson, St. Pete Beach; and Nick Simons, Redington Beach.
“This is not just a beach issue; this is a Florida issue,” Cretekos said.
Lunn concurred. “Based on grandfather provisions, so far we (Treasure Island) have been able to hold on (to our authority in this matter), but I support home rule,” he said.
Loss of local authority over short-term rentals seemed counterintuitive to when the towns have had many decades of successfully handling these issues on their own.
“Eighty years North Redington Beach has had short-term rentals,” said Queen.
In other BIG-C matters
• Forward Pinellas planner Sandra Knoebel asked for one of the mayors from the BIG-C to fill the open Gulf beaches seat. Forward Pinellas, which meets three times per year in Clearwater, is a land use and planning agency. Kennedy volunteered for the seat on the 13-member Forward Pinellas board, which facilitates school safety, transportation and bus routes. The BIG-C unanimously approved Kennedy’s appointment.
• Florida State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, sent a reminder to the mayors to submit their appropriations requests as soon as possible. The Florida legislative session starts Jan. 14.
Next month’s BIG-C meeting will take place Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 9 a.m. in the Belleair Beach Community Center.