REDINGTON BEACH — The mayors of the Pinellas beach communities have vowed to keep the pressure on state legislators as bills relating to short-term rentals are coming up for consideration in both the House and the Senate.
For several years local municipalities have been upset with laws that prevent them from regulating short term rentals in their communities. They are not allowed to dictate how often or for how long homeowners can rent their property.
With the advent of organizations such as Airbnb, more and more homeowners are renting their homes for weekends. This has led to neighbors complaining about renters having loud parties at all hours. Other than citing homeowners for noise infractions, there is little a municipality can do to curb the practice.
On March 27 at the monthly meeting of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council, the BIG-C, the mayors expressed frustration over the state laws and said they were determined to keep fighting against them.
North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen was vocal in his opposition to what is happening in Tallahassee.
“It is terrible what they are doing,” he said. “There are a lot of issues involved with this, and I’m hearing the legislators are getting a lot of blow back over it.”
Indian Rocks Beach Mayor Cookie Kennedy said she was happy to hear that.
“It means that maybe our message is getting through,” she said. “The people are speaking.”
St. Pete Beach Mayor Alan Johnson noted that a new group in Tierra Verde supports what state lawmakers are doing.
“They are called Save our Rentals and they want to keep moving forward with more freedom for renters,” he said. “I talked to one man who said he wanted to be able to rent to anyone anytime. When I said to him ‘fast forward to when you are living there and there is a wild party going on next door, is that what you want?’ “There was nothing but silence on the other end of the phone.”
“They always talk about property rights,” said Kennedy. “But I say what about the rights of the people they are bothering?”
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos cautioned the group not to stray from its mission.
“Each city is different,” he said. “We need to keep focusing on the message about what the people want. The legislators don’t represent their party, they represent their communities and we have to keep reminding them of that.”
Cretekos noted that the mantra of the Republican Party is that the government closer to the people is the best government.
Indian Shores Mayor Pat Soranno said the beach mayors had to continue to act as a group.
“If we stay together then we can use our political clout to get things done,” he said.
Queen said that because the big rental entities pay tax to Tallahassee the lawmakers are siding with them. He said that wasn’t good enough.
“They are willing to sell our neighborhoods and our peace of mind for money,” he said. “If we don’t pay attention to what they are doing, we will keep losing.”
Queen said the mayors have got to get the message out to their constituents who can in turn complain to their legislators.
“The people who will make a difference in this are the people who, right now, don’t know what is going on.”
The BIG-C mayors decided to form a committee to keep watch over what is happening with the issue and to give the group regular updates. The committee consists of Queen, Kennedy and Redington Shores Mayor MaryBeth Henderson.
Indian Shores Mayor Pat Soranno assumed the title of president of the BIG-C. As vice president he was next in line. Treasurer Alan Johnson, St. Pete Beach mayor, moves up to vice president and Henderson was unanimously voted in as secretary-treasurer.
Outgoing President Leslie Notaro of Belleair Beach was presented with a plaque thanking her for her time in office.