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Vacation rental, other ordinances get council’s OK

By Staff | Oct 7, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane reads a proclamation recognizing the 40th anniversary of Community Housing and Resources at the city council's meeting on Oct. 2.

The Sanibel City Council approved establishing a registration process for short-term rentals and revising the planning commission’s rules and procedures for canceling meetings, as well as withdrew a proposed ordinance that addresses electric devices on the Shared Use Path to make changes to it.

At the Oct. 2 meeting, the council voted 5-0 in support of an ordinance to create a registration for dwelling rentals and rental licenses. Presented by Councilmember Holly Smith, it sets up a process to regulate non-resort housing and platform vacation rentals like Airbnb to keep them in compliance.

One goal of the ordinance is to preserve the character of residential neighborhoods.

Councilmember Richard Johnson praised the work put into the proposal.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham echoed that.

TIFFANY REPECKI Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane reads a proclamation proclaiming October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Oct. 24 as the “Pink Out” Celebration at the Sanibel fire district.

“I think it’s very good,” he said.

However, Denham questioned if additional language should be added to the ordinance about it “protecting property rights” of those residents who live adjacent to such short-term rentals.

Smith explained that she did not want to invalidate the city’s grandfathered legislation.

City Attorney John Agnew offered clarification.

“All that the ordinance does is puts in place a registration and licensure process to ensure that what is already on the books is followed,” he said, adding that it extends to rental platforms like Airbnb.

Also at the meeting, the council voted 5-0 in favor of amending the Sanibel Planning Commission’s “Rules and Procedures” to allow the chair to cancel a meeting if there are no public hearings set.

In addition, the second reading of a proposed ordinance to amend the Sanibel Code and prohibit certain bicycles and mopeds from being used on the SUP came up during the meeting, presented by Denham.

Early into the discussion, Mayor Kevin Ruane explained that the aim was not to proceed with the ordinance as written, but to discuss it and suggest changes. Agnew noted that with substantial changes, the council would need to start the process over with a first reading of the new revised ordinance.

The council voted 5-0 to withdraw the ordinance, update it and bring back the new version.

“We’re just trying to get this right,” Ruane said.

Prior to the vote, the council had a lengthy debate about the ordinance as presented.

Ruane recommended reaching out to the Florida League of Cities to locate related legislation that addresses education, signage, safety and enforcement – areas he felt were not covered in the language.

“There’s a lot we can learn from like-kind communities,” he said.

Ruane noted that he was not comfortable with the ordinance and changes as written.

“There are just areas that we have not addressed in the ordinance,” he said.

Smith suggested taking it a step further and talking to city staff and police.

“The city of Sanibel would be the first to write an ordinance of inclusion (in Florida),” she said, referring to language in the ordinance to permit Class I or E electric bicycles on the SUP.

“Sanibel is the bullseye right now that everyone is watching,” Smith added.

She also voiced concern about a lack of language on limiting rentals.

“My concern is opening it up without limitation,” Smith said, noting that caps were put on mopeds and Segways. “If it opens it up to every other rental company, what are the unintended consequences?”

Denham responded to the concerns raised, explaining that he reached out to various entities and businesses for input while drafting the ordinance. He noted that he differentiated between renters and owners of e-bikes within the language. Denham added that a concern is getting an ordinance set.

“I would like to have something in place before the season starts,” he said.

Denham continued that all of the proposed changes may take them well beyond season.

Councilmember Jason Maughan agreed.

“I have a fear this is going to get away from us,” he said.

Maughan voiced support for the draft and suggested moving it forward to a first reading.

“It does exactly what I want it to do,” he said.

Johnson agreed with doing things timely, but not quickly.

“I don’t want to continue to drag this out, but I want to make the right decision when we do this,” he said of voting on an ordinance, adding that he also would like something in place for season.

“We need to make sure that we get it right, and I think that’s critically important,” Johnson said.

After some additional discussion, Denham agreed to follow up on the issues raised.

“I accept your decision,” he said. “I think is it reasonable.”

IN OTHER NEWS

– Council voted 5-0 to move forward with the first reading of a proposed ordinance relating to the commercial use of gas-powered leaf blowers. With a small change in hours, the language would permit their use from Monday to Saturday, excluding holidays, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

– Council partially approved a request from The Jac Sanibel Island Bar & Grille for an indoor and outdoor entertainment license. After hearing staff recommendations, it voted 5-0 to approve the indoor license but not the outdoor one. But, council welcomed the owners to present their “outdoor” case.

– A first reading took place of a proposed ordinance on updates to parking permit signs.