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Cape Council delays decision on short-term rentals

By Staff | May 16, 2017

After hearing mixed reaction from residents, Realtors and property managers, Cape Coral City Council delayed a second hearing on an ordinance to set standards for short-term rental properties until after the summer hiatus.

Council, expressing concerns that the measure as proposed was heavy-handed, cumbersome and redundant, pushed back the second public hearing from June 5 to July 24 to give city staff more time to fine tune the details.

Assistant City Manager Mike Ilczyszyn gave a presentation on the city’s current short-term rental policy, which does not allow for rentals of less than one week.

The city defines a vacation rental as a residential property or dwelling that is rented or leased to guests more than three times in a calendar year for less than 30 days or one calendar month, whichever is less, or which is advertised or held out as a place regularly rented or leased to guests for less than 30 days.

The goal behind the proposed ordinance was to ensure building safety, reduce impacts on neighborhoods and affordable housing availability, improve compliance, recover lost tax revenue for code enforcement and to tell people that short-term rental businesses are welcome, but within guidelines.

The rentals would be required to register annually. There would be a $123 resolution fee, a $100 inspection fee and a business tax receipt of $77, that on top of the 11 percent owners already pay in state and county tourists taxes.

Guidelines would include quiet hours, times during which to take solid waste curbside and a prohibition of rentals to sex offenders.

Critics said the proposal would not only place an unfair burden on property owners but would hamper the city’s economy.

Floyd Turner, a property manager, said of the 260 guests he has handled there was only one call to law enforcement, and the ramifications of passing the resolution could have negative consequences.

“Many guests have become property owners themselves and contribute to the economy. We understand the safety concerns, but we have a lot to lose if we determine the city doesn’t support rentals,” Turner said.

Dan Peterson rents his property. He said if the ordinance passes, he will sell his property and go elsewhere.

“I would have bought a home in a gated community if I wanted restrictions. If anyone rents a property under these conditions would be crazy,” Peterson said. “I often rent to people for less than a week. They go to weddings and birthday parties and people who stay spend about $1,000. That’s $100 million of direct impact from renters.”

Resident Frank Perry, who has experienced the problems renters can cause, said the ordinance is necessary.

“You have no idea who’s coming next door to you. This is either a single-family neighborhood or it’s a business. It can’t be both,” Perry said. “You can’t have a squared circle.”

Reaction on the council was also divided, though everyone agreed that, with all the concerns expressed by the parties involved, they should proceed with care.

“There will be heartburn with what we’re doing. Let’s be careful with this. We need to go slower,” Councilmember Jim Burch said. “The idea is to protect the people in the neighborhood. We need uniformity, not an overbearing statewide system.”

Councilmember John Carioscia said he very much supported the ordinance, judging by the calls and complaints he gets weekly.

“They don’t have consideration for their neighbors. We have a commercial venue in a residential area,” Carioscia said. “Some of the landlords don’t respond to our inquiries. What can we hold over them to make them accountable?”

Council decided it needed to look into the ordinance a little further and voted unanimously to move the second hearing back.

“I would vote no if we voted tonight. I would if we didn’t have something so intimidating and heavy-handed,” Councilmember Marilyn Stout said.