It’s the year of the fee increase on Fort Myers Beach. In addition to moving toward a millage rate increase (the final vote will be September 22nd at 5PM), the Fort Myers Beach Town Council will also be raising license fees on Jet Ski and Parasail operators, for memberships at Bay Oaks, on users of the pool, and for many other services the town offers.
Next up for a big fee increase will be the owners of vacation rentals. It was just last year that the town council raised the license fee from $50.00 per year to $300 per year on short-term vacation rental owners. That brought in an additional $330,000 to the town. This council says it will be using the money for work-force housing, although, admittedly council members have no idea what they will do to fill the need of work-force housing.
During its first budget public hearing last week, councilman Bill Veach proposed an additional fee of $100 per bedroom for every vacation rental be added on top of the annual $300 fee. Owners of a 4-bedroom vacation rental will now pay $700 a year, rather than $300, if the proposal passes through the second public hearing on the 22nd.
Councilman Dan Allers opposed the fee increase. He said the reason we imposed the fee, in the original ordinance, was for administrative purposes to do all the processing and now we’re trying to change it to use the money for something else.
Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros said the growth in vacation rentals on the island is alarming. “I am losing my town. People are buying up the properties and renting them out. I’m getting emotional about this. My neighborhood is gone. I now have to deal with strangers on a weekly basis walking up and down my street. We have to do something to get this situation under control.” She also said she has many friends who can no longer live on the island, driven out by the short-term rentals.
Allers said the fee increase is just going to get passed onto the end user who will continue to come. It will not slow down the growth of vacation rentals. Hosafros disagreed, she said if our fees are higher maybe those people will go somewhere else. That is my goal. I don’t want this to become a short-term rental community. It has gone beyond reasonable.
There are approximately 2,000 registrations for short-term rental operations on Fort Myers Beach, according to councilman Bill Veach. They average 2.1 bedrooms. He said the additional fees could net the town another $1 million per year. And, he says, the goal is not for the town to be in the business of building work-force housing but for there to be a housing entity. The town would have a contract with that entity to provide work-force housing. Veach wants there to be a bucket of money built up so that when an opportunity arises, the town is ready to fund it.
Mayor Ray Murphy said he admired Veach’s initiative.
The fee increase was voted on and approved and needs to be voted on again at the second budget meeting on September 22nd.