Attorney: Short Term Rental Increase Already A Done Deal

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You may recall our report from last week that the town was considering tacking an additional $100 per room fee on all vacation rental properties on the beach.

Councilman Jim Atterholt was hoping to hear from vacation property owners at the final budget public hearing, which is this Thursday at 5PM. Atterholt felt the public wasn’t given any notice that the new fee would be on the agenda.

The new fee had been mentioned several times in passing at previous meetings by Councilman Bill Veach. Veach wants the town to start banking money to deal with the shortage in workforce housing. He blames the lack of affordable housing for workers on the beach on the explosion of vacation rentals.

According to town attorney John Herin, the new fees have already been approved. Apparently when the town council approved the long list of fee increases at its first budget public hearing on September 6th, that was all that was needed to start the ball rolling on charging more. Many people were of the understanding that the fees would have to be part of the second budget public hearing, and a second vote, just like the full budget. Certainly Atterholt believed that at the time. According to Herin, that’s not the case.

Vacation property owners started to receive e-mails with the additional fees days after the first budget public hearing. That caused quite a bit of confusion for many people who were under the impression that they would get their three minutes to speak about the fee increase, in front of the town council, this Thursday night.

In an e-mail exchange with a local resident, Herin says being that the fees were approved by resolution on September 6th, that was all Town Manager Roger Hernstadt needed to start sending out the fee increase notices. “Except for a small number of exceptions that do not apply to this situation resolutions do not require more than one reading by the Town Council, only ordinances require two readings and two public hearings.”

Herin then got even more technical with the local resident. “Florida law does not mandate that the Town Council (or any other city or county in the State of Florida) provide notice of every item that may be discussed at a public meeting. Furthermore, the courts of this state have rejected such a requirement because it could effectively preclude access to meetings by members of the general public who wish to bring specific issues before a governmental body.”

It’s the perception of how this was done that bothers Atterholt. When, on September 6th, Atterholt made the statement there was another two weeks (before the fee increase might be passed) to hear from vacation property owners, neither Herin or Hernstadt spoke up to tell him that when they approved the resolution it was a done deal. They could have easily set him straight right then and there but chose to remain silent.

Herin also said that the courts have stated, “there is no prohibition on a local government adding items to an agenda, because ‘there is no requirement in the sunshine law that specific matters to be addressed by a public body be listed in advance of the meeting on an agenda.’

Despite what Herin said, vacation rental owners believe the town snuck this fee increase in without giving them any notice or warning. It’s not clear if any vacation rental property owners plan to attend the meeting on Thursday to try to get the town to reverse its decision, or at least reduce the $100 per room fee.

Adding to the public’s confusion about the fee increase is that there is an ordinance and a public hearing on the agenda for the council’s 3PM meeting on Thursday (see below). If the higher fees still need to be voted on, and there are two public hearings, why did the letters with those higher fees already go out to vacation rental owners?

Councilman Dan Allers voted against the fee increases.

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. The tax should be $200-$300 per a room. The short term rentals raise housing prices since buyers are competing against short-term rental investors, lowers the available housing stock, and removes any sense of community from the area since so many homeowners don’t live in their houses or participate in the community.

    If city representatives aren’t smart enough to realize what they’re voting on and when it will be implemented, then they shouldn’t be holding the position they’ve been elected to.

  2. When council members start making decisions against the people instead of for the people, it’s time for them to go! The people in power eventually eat there own……how does it feel Mr Atterholt?

    If our own council didn’t realize how this went down, why are they running our town??

  3. Mr Atterholt is dpot in protecting us again. Town manager and attorney both need to go ASAP. All they do is open us up to expensive lawsuits and legal fees. Absolutely employee free parking far more important than on island housing. . Thank you Jim and Dan.

  4. Citizens you have the legal right to have these two removed from their positions. Start a petition. Get some legal backing and go after these idiots. But most important vote in November. They did this because once again it affects none of the council or Roger. If it were up to 3 of the council member that would be a draw bridge that only allowed residents over it. They hate people. They hate life. Just look how they treat others and now a large chunk of people who are residents that own and rent.

  5. It’s very concerning that if they can do this whose to say that every year they will increase the charges and the owners will have no choice but to increase the rent for seasonal and annually! 🙁

  6. Free parking for employees, yes!
    The short term and long term rentals 2-3 months during season bring money to the island every year at all these restaurants and businesses.
    Island residents don’t eat out every day domes more than once, or by items in the shops everyday.
    I wrote to each council person, heard back from 2.

  7. Super sneaky. Shame on them. If this… what next? (Anyone who lives on the island is next)
    Nothing in the new law that says pennies are not permitted as a form of payment right?

  8. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky…. Don’t like how this went down one bit. Saving for work force housing? Really? That should only take about 20 years to save enough for one lot. How about doing something for our work force family right now, like work force parking? I don’t get it. Our Manager and Attorney didn’t speak up and clarify….why not? Sneaky and Stinky in my book….

  9. I’m a little confused by what is considered a rental property according to the Town. So if I rent a condo from a friend, do I have to pay the extra $100 a day? Or is it a flat $100 per condo per year?? How does this work and what is being charged?

  10. Personally I think this was unprofessional and unfair. Any fees that go up, for some, 500% needs to be a public issue. After talking to MANY workers on the
    island it isn’t the “living on the island” that most complain about. They really
    don’t want to live on the island, HOWEVER, they do want a FREE place to park.
    Housing? Parking? big difference

  11. Just goes to show everyone what a criminal pair these 2 jokers are. Sneaking and manipulative. Herin and Hernstadt are the worst of the worst. Wondering when our island post it’s hometown, small business, family appeal? Look no further than these 2 losers. Will be happy to see them go and FMB will be a better place for it.

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