Amendment allows local governments to regulate rentals

Anna Maria Island, Florida -- Local Florida governments are watching an amendment to a bill that would give back control over vacation rentals. City leaders on Anna Maria Island say that lack of regulation is being seen in parts of Anna Maria Island and it's impacting their way of life.

"Another Day in Paradise" reads the banners hanging from light polls throughout the City of Anna Maria. It's why visitors come to Anna Maria Island and why Sissy Quinn made it her home 22 years ago.

"To us, it is Paradise. We even call our house the Enchanted Cottage," says Sissy.

It's a slice of paradise Sissy says is disappearing as more and more vacation rentals go up with no end in sight and, at this pace, Sissy says, "We'll be nothing but a resort city."

City leaders say the city now consists of 1/3 permanent residents, 2/3 vacationers. A few years ago, those numbers were flipped.

One resident is passing out yellow T-shirts with the words "Paradise Lost" on the front and the initials "AMI" for Anna Maria Island on the back. City of Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn receives one.

"It's not a peaceful, quiet community anymore," says SueLynn.

A Vacation Rental law passed in 2011 prohibits local governments from regulating vacation rentals. An amendment to the law would repeal that provision. The current law is an all or nothing approach.

If a local government wants to require vacation rentals to do monthly health inspections of its pools, it would apply to all property owners including homeowners. Some say that is not fair and nothing gets done.

"They're not regulated for safety and health issues and that's a serious concern for this city," says Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen.

Peelen says the current vacation rental law ties the hands of local governments.

"What happened in 2011 is an unconstitutional grab of power by the state -- taking away from cities the ability to regulate vacation rentals in any way," says Peelen.

"We don't want to stop preventing homes. We just want to have the ability to make a difference, maintaining the quality of residents' lives and who comes here. We can't do that now. People building these places they don't care want to make a buck," SueLynn says.

Residents say the amendment would help preserve what's left of their piece of paradise.

"What we don't want to lose here is that small, old Florida city feeling," Sissy says.


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