Wilton Manors officials discussed multiple scenarios during a workshop on the city’s long-running attempts to regulate vacation rentals.
On April 26, commissioners mulled changes to chapter 10 of the city’s code of ordinances. The chapter covers licenses, permits and business regulations with an article dedicated to vacation rentals. Community Development Services Director Roberta Moore asked the commission for definitions of hotels, motels, transient public lodging establishments, capacity calculations, vacation rentals and inspections.
“The ULDRs [Unified Land Development Regulations] dictate the locations of where hotels and motels can be located, however what we have found recently is the need to clarify differences between vacation rentals and hotels and motels,” Moore said.
City Attorney Kerry Ezrol said modifications in the code are needed to keep up with changing technology in the marketplace. Regulations to vacation rentals haven’t seen major changes since 2012, Ezrol said.
“We were unintentionally providing certain rights to property owners that we were not required to do,” Ezrol said.
Proposed definition for hotels, Moore said, is sleeping rooms and accommodations for 25 or more guests with industry-recognized services. Motels would be defined by having at least six rental units with an outside exit and an onsite management office.
Some of the regulations proposed for vacation rentals were having a resident age 25 or older on property at all times, procedures for noise complaints, fines, parking, communications and garbage.
Commissioner Chris Caputo disclosed he had co-owned an Airbnb out of his home in Wilton Manors in the past, but not currently. Caputo said he manages an Airbnb outside of the city and asked for a caveat that would allow large-scale housing developments to have up to four units designated as vacation rentals.
Caputo’s request was voted down as Vice Mayor Paul Rolli noted the dwindling affordable housing stock for full-time residents.
“We’re in a crisis here with housing affordability,” Rolli said. “And that whole Airbnb process doesn’t add to the value of the property.”
Bad behavior and billionaire investment firms were also cited as concerns. Commissioner Gary Resnick reminded the commission of the costs of the recent opioid overdose involving college students at a westside Airbnb. Resnick said he is contemplating a move because of the wild antics in his neighborhood from vacation rentals.
“I live next to one of those now and I’m thinking about moving out of the city,” Resnick said. “I just don’t wanna live next to that.”
While Airbnb, the San Francisco-based vacation rentals and tourism activities platform, took a lot of hits during the hour-long workshop, it did have defenders.
Tim Theisen, a member of the Planning & Zoning Board, advised against removing an exemption for permanent residents who may want to rent out a room in their home.
“Most people who list a spare bedroom on Airbnb are not typically bad actors or manage hedge funds,” Theisen said.
Resident Jake Valentine said rules are meaningless without an adequately funded response.
“If we don’t enforce it, none of this means anything and we can’t enforce it with two code officers,” Valentine said.
Mayor Scott Newton said the police department should be fully staffed and road-ready by the end of the year.
“We are constantly working on it,” Newton said. “We are funding them, but things happen to people who leave for some reason and we have to hire again and it takes a while.”
Commissioner Mike Bracchi asked Moore to engage with local realtors associations before bringing code changes back to the commission for further readings.