Pasco County is looking to tweak its vacation rental rules, to make them more applicable to today’s times.
The issue came up during the public comment portion of the Pasco County Commission’s May 18 meeting.
Nancy Thrower, who lives in Hudson, asked the board to amend the county’s ordinance that governs vacation rentals.
“I’m here today to request that you begin the process to amend the current Pasco County ordinance governing vacation rentals.
“As you know, the current Pasco County vacation rental ordinance, enacted way back in 1999, restricts vacation rentals to 30 days or more, unless community owners file a petition with 51% owner support to change the minimum to six days instead,” Thrower said.
“It would be to our whole county’s benefit to update this ordinance, as soon as possible, because right now, Pasco County is losing out on much-needed revenue.
“It is out of reach financially for most families to take 30 days off, in a row, for summer vacation.
“Pasco County businesses are also missing out on tourist revenue.
“We all know that COVID-19 really stressed our economy.
“The extra revenue generated from updating this ordinance would go a long way to helping local businesses continue getting back on their feet, and then prosper going forward.
“Our county businesses will definitely see an increase in customers, with this change, as it will help extend our tourist season.
“Third, investors are losing money.
“Many condo owners purchase their properties to enjoy themselves and use them as vacation rentals to help pay for them until they retire,” she told commissioners.
She said that changing the ordinance would be a step toward supporting local businesses.
“Passing an ordinance of no less than six days is sufficient to keep condo complexes and other associations from competing with hotels, while unburdening private businesses, so all can prosper.
“My ask is that you change the current 30-day Pasco County Vacation Rental Ordinance to a six-day minimum.
“Please empower homeowner associations and property owners with the right to propose a longer minimum stay for their own properties, if they so choose. Please amend this ordinance to make it less restrictive on our personal property rights, and help our local businesses thrive,” Thrower said.
Commissioners do not respond to speakers during the public comment period of their meetings, but later in the meeting, Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said that the issues raised by Thrower are valid.
Starkey said there are vacation rentals all over the place in Gulf Harbors, and the county’s current ordinance is not working.
“I don’t think we can code enforce our way out of the new reality of short-term rental. So, in my opinion, we need to have rules in place that we can enforce. But we can’t enforce anything, when they’re not allowed.
“I think our short-term rental ordinance needs to go and we need to put rules in place — fire, safety.
“We need to manage them, and right now we’re not.
“So, I think we should talk about short-term rentals,” said Starkey.
Commissioner Jack Mariano said: “It is something we need to address. I think we need to scrap the ordinance, start afresh. And start allowing people to do this, as quick as we can. A new set of rules.”
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder told the board: “You’ve got a 1999 ordinance that predated when the Legislature changed the rules and said anyone that had an ordinance in place at the time that they passed their legislation could keep it. But once you start playing with it, you lose that grandfather.
“The Legislature has taken away your ability to adopt a new one (vacation rental ordinance).
“If you scrap the ordinance, you scrap it.
Starkey added: “Right, we lose our grandfather.”
One option is to simply get out of the business, Steinsnyder said.
Mariano suggested: “Maybe we need to do an agenda item and we can discuss it.”
Starkey added: “Get tourism involved.”
Commissioner Mike Moore agrees that the county’s tourism team should be involved in the discussion.
Mariano asked Steinsnyder: “Can you bring what the effect would be, if we went with just the state regulation? So we can all look at it ahead of time before the next meeting?”
Steinsnyder agreed to do so.
Published May 26, 2021