There is a dangerous and growing threat to our quality of life here in our Island City. This problem has plagued many in our fair city for some time now, and as this threat continues to spread throughout our residential neighborhoods many more are now waking up to this menacing peril called short-term rentals.

Quality of life is the foundation of why life is just better here in Wilton Manors. Unfortunately that foundation is being eroded day by day as another household is sold and turned into a short-term vacation rental.

Illegal or not, short-term vacation rentals have no place in residential neighborhoods. We have special zoning districts where such lodging and hotel establishments are allowed to operate. Citizens in our residential zoned areas look to know their neighbors and do not want a rotating cast of unknown characters disturbing them on a daily basis.

Now let’s not be confused here.  We are not talking about a property owner having the right to rent out their property on a yearly or even monthly basis. We are talking about business owners who buy up single-family homes to operate a motel, renting out on a daily or weekly basis, to make hefty profits.  Many of these new owners have done illegal renovations to maximize rental income, some choose not to register with the city, and others do not pay any fees or taxes and don’t give a damn about your quality of life.

Residential neighborhoods are suffering from the ever-increasing threat of unchecked vacation rentals and our city’s inability to handle the crisis. Complaints of noise, loud parties, illegally parked cars up and down the street, garbage left piled up at the end of the driveway, late-night disturbances now leave many in our community very concerned about the unpredictability of this new way of life spreading throughout our wonderful neighborhoods.

Neighbors are beginning to question their quality of life here in our Island City. Some are looking for communities that prohibit or greatly restrict the operations of short-term rentals in residential communities. The exodus of resident homeowners from our city will not be a good situation and I fear the tipping point is very near.

City Commissioner Caputo stated awhile back that our city has a code enforcement issue, not a short-term rental issue. Perhaps Commissioner Caputo is correct. Since our state legislators continue to remove local jurisdiction and home rule ability to control or prohibit short-term rentals, having a strong, pro-active and fully staffed code enforcement force is ever more important for our city. The five-year rosy outlook for strong growth in demand for short-term rentals must be met with an equally strong commitment by local governments to control, regulate, and enforce ordinances through firm code enforcement.

Now it’s time for our elected officials to put their money where their mouth is. Our city’s code enforcement division is greatly understaffed and currently operating with just one person.  

As great of a job this one code enforcement officer is doing with juggling standing in as temporary supervisor, working the street, answering complaints and being ready for magistrate hearings, our neighborhoods are still left under-served, and unable to deal with the growing problem of illegal short-term rentals along with other detrimental code violations taking place daily in our Island City. 

While our city’s Human Resource Department continues with its efforts to fully staff our code enforcement division, and while some advocate for additional funding in the upcoming budget for a possible additional code officer, much still should have been done to alleviate the current deficiency of code enforcement in our city.

Many city departments utilize outside entities to supplement needed services that current staffing cannot handle. Why has this not been done for Code Enforcement?

CAP Government provides necessary services for our Community Services Department to handle building inspections and other as-needed building department services. This same company also offers full and comprehensive code enforcement services. These services are offered on a supplemental level to aid in staffing, field enforcement, transitional planning and all other aspects of the department’s needs. Perhaps city leaders need to have a discussion on how best to expedite getting the needed services we are in present drastic need of.

We must become ever more vocal in our complaints to local and state officials. We must become ever more involved with neighborhood associations. We must demand city leaders deal with this challenge by allocating adequate resources and we must fight to protect our neighborhoods, our community and our quality of life we cherish here in Wilton Manors.

Only by preserving and protecting residential neighborhoods throughout our Island City will residents continue to take pride in the claim that life is just better here…

Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.