Bill to regulate short term vacation rentals to be withdrawn

Just one day after introducing to the Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) Committee a bill to regulate short term vacation rentals, citing “a lack of time” District 14 Councilman Jim Love requested June 5 that his proposed bill be withdrawn, with the recommendation that the new City Council take up the issue. On June 11, City Council voted 14-0 to withdraw the bill.

            When Love introduced the bill to City Council’s LUZ it was with the intention the committee would hold a public hearing June 18, take action and then have the full City Council act on it June 25 so that the bill could be finalized, one way or the other, before Love’s term ended June 30.

            During his introduction of Bill 2019-238, Love noted the feedback he received from a community meeting May 6 and a Planning Commission meeting May 9 influenced his decision to amend the original draft, which would have required short term rental property owners to have 24/7 onsite representation and to provide off-street parking, two regulations that created an uproar from STVR hosts.

            The revised bill Love introduced to City Council May 15 was, in the eyes of residents unhappy about living next door to STVR properties, substantially watered down and did not protect their rights.

“The biggest reason for getting this done is to have contact information and for us, the government, to know how many people are doing this [renting out rooms and homes],” said Love at the June 4 LUZ meeting. “Right now, they are not registered anywhere, and it would make it a lot easier to collect taxes. Only 36 out of more than 2,000 [STVRs] are currently paying taxes. It also impacts the homestead exemption, so the property appraiser’s office would like to know who is doing this.”

Pulling the plug

Late on Wednesday night, June 5, Love made the decision to back away from pursuing the bill to regulate short term rentals.

            “After much thought and great input from constituents I admire and organizations I respect I have decided to request withdrawal of the Short Term Rental Bill 2019-238,” Love said in an email to Council President Aaron Bowman. “After two rounds of trying to get it right I have come to the conclusion that this subject requires more thought and input and I am out of time. The Short Term Rental subject is too important to rush. It needs to be done and it needs to cover all the bases and unfortunately both versions did neither.

            “I urge the new Council to take this up in a thoughtful way and do what’s best the Jacksonville,” Love continued. “That has always been my mantra.”

            In the days prior to his decision to withdraw the bill, Love had received requests from Riverside Avondale Preservation’s Board Chair Nancy Powell and Executive Director Warren Jones, and from incoming District 14 Councilmember Randy DeFoor to withdraw the bill.

            “We have serious concerns about the process that this bill has taken to short cut the proper hearings and/or citizen information meetings that will sufficiently inform the community about the potential impact of this bill on the future of our residential communities,” read the letter from Powell and Jones. 

            “Some mistakenly believe that this is an issue specific only to Riverside and Avondale, which it is not. The bill will cover the entire city except for the Beaches, and it will change the zoning for every residential community in the city. San Marco, San Jose, Springfield, Ortega, Murray Hill, Arlington, Mandarin, Baymeadows and Southside communities and beyond will all be impacted.”

            RAP also urged the Council to reconvene or re-form the Subcommittee to “finish the work that was started and issue the report that was promised, and to be thoughtful about allowing sufficient time to prepare a legislation that will balance the various interests, and for the public to become aware of, and understand, the impacts of whatever legislation is put forth.”

            DeFoor, who had received a copy of the substitute bill on June 3, also wrote to Love asking for it to be withdrawn.

            “I commend you for turning the attention of the community to this issue,” she said. “In reaching a correct result for Jacksonville, it will be important that a process be used to allow maximum citizen input by all affected parties, as well as to study the successes, and failures of communities which have confronted this issue elsewhere. The time remaining in your term will not allow a full consideration of these issues, and haste will not be the friend of a good result. The best product requires the best process.”

            According to the Rules of Council of the City of Jacksonville, as authorized by Section 10.101 of the Ordinance Code, “any bill may be withdrawn by the introducer at any time before amendment or putting to a vote, with the consent of a majority of the Council Members present.”

By Kate A. Hallock

Resident Community News

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