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2019 Florida Vacation Rentals Act revival may come too late for some

David Hefner bought a three-bedroom home with a pool on Treasure Island near Clearwater for $700,000 in November as a “secondary residence” his West Virginia family would enjoy several times a year. He invested another $100,000 in improvements and renovations. “The home has everything – and it’s on the water,” he said.

Hefner said he always intended to buy a beach-area home that he could offer as vacation rental. Without subsidizing his mortgage payments with rental income, he could not afford such an investment.

His prospective neighbors were doing it. There were dozens of single-family homes in Treasure Island and surrounding areas listed on digital vacation rental sites such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway, he noticed.

Hefner did so, too. Within two months, “I had 22 weeks booked,” he said.

At $3,000 a week, Hefner anticipated about $60,000 in rental income from the home.

But that money instantly disappeared in a visit from a Treasure Island code enforcement officer.

Hefner said the officer told him he was responding to an “anonymous email” alerting him that Hefner was violating the city’s short-term rental ordinance that prohibits single-family homes from being rented for any period of time more than twice a year.

The officer explained the city was responding to a rash of complaints regarding “illegal rentals” and there could be “no exception to the rule,” Hefner said.

He had to cancel his bookings and hope the proposed Vacations Rental Act was adopted by the Legislature during its 2018 session.

“Knowing that the law might change, it was a glimmer of hope,” he said, noting the digital sites all assess the state-local 13 percent sales tax, meaning he would have paid $7,800 in taxes to local and state governments.

The Vacations Rental Act – Senate Bill 1400, sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and House Bill 773, sponsored by Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud – imposed state preemption in regulating short-term rentals.

The bill proposed removing short-term vacation rentals from hotel and motel regulations, and establishing a uniform inspection program conducted by the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

Proponents said state preemption was necessary to protect private landowners rights and unshackle the restrictions on private homeowners – such as Hefner – to participate in a growing $31 billion state short-term rental industry from a restrictive local regulation.

Opponents, including local governments and the state’s hospitality industry, argued the bill would preclude homeowners from managing their own neighborhoods, claiming it was another example of the Republican-led legislature using preemption to strip municipalities of their capacities to address street-level concerns.

SB 1400 passed the Senate Regulated Industries Committee, but never made it out the chamber’s appropriations and community affairs committees for a floor vote. HB 773 also never made it out of committee. Similar 2017 bills shared the same fates.

Proponents say the measures got lost in the time crunch after the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland became a pressing priority during the last three weeks of the 60-day session that adjourned March 9.

Opponents said pressure by local government advocates and hotel industry representatives, such as the Greater Miami and The Beaches Hotel Association, made passage highly unlikely.

Nevertheless, Vacation Rental Act proponents say they will try again to get the bill introduced and passed in 2019.

Florida Vacation Rental Management Association (FLVRMA) President Jennifer Frankenstein-Harris told members that despite bills restricting local regulation of short-term rentals failed two years in a row, the fight is not over but just beginning.

“The truth is, we are only in the midst of this discussion,” she said. “As president, I personally guarantee the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association will continue to bring forth education and a fierce determination to fight for the rights of property owners across the state of Florida. I assure you this fight is far from over.”

Florida Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Breit said “it’s too early to tell” if Airbnb will again lobby for the measure, noting it will be querying November election candidates about their views on vacation rentals.

“From our post-session conversations with state lawmakers and our 45,000-plus statewide hosts, it certainly appears there is an appetite to revisit this issue in order to provide regulatory certainty for an industry that infuses hundreds of millions of dollars into Florida’s economy,” Breit said.

Indeed, the vacation rentals issue could be a state Legislature campaign issue, said Kurt Wenner, vice president for research with Florida TaxWatch.

Wenner said Florida TaxWatch has never taken a stand on the issue but may do so soon. “That is something that we are considering taking a look at,” he said. “What kind of impact it has” on local governments and on housing values.

“Is it good or bad?”

If regulatory relief does come in 2019, it will likely be too late for Hefner.

“It’s a bummer to see that the bill was not addressed during their last session,” he said. “I’m going to need to sell my home because of local city regulations.”

“In fact,” he added, “my Realtor is actually at the house now.”

Photo credit: Mark Winfrey | Shutterstock

By John Haughey | Watchdog.org

Publix to build new prototype grocery store in Indialantic on State Road A1A

The mystery Indialantic grocery store has been identified: Publix will build a concept store on State Road A1A alongside the Indialantic Center shopping plaza, across the highway from Sunrise Park.

“No it’s not a Greenwise, it is a Publix but nothing like anywhere around here (literally). They call it a Prototype or Concept Store, the design and products are designed around the special communities they support,” Indialantic Mayor Dave Berkman posted Tuesday night on Facebook.

“Someone mentioned they had recently been to one in Gainesville, ours will be similar but not exactly like it. I expect it will have fresh prepared foods, specialty meats/cheeses, organic, cafe seating inside and outside, etc.,” he wrote.

The prototype Publix may open by the end of 2019 or early 2020, said Matt Williams, partner with Matthew Development.

“We’re very excited to bring this level of tenant to a smaller town who we think could really use another grocery use. We’re excited — and we hope the residents are as well,” Williams said.

Berkman made the Publix announcement after the Indialantic Zoning and Planning Board approved the site plan Tuesday night.

Additional permits and approvals are required to make the store a reality. For example, Town Council must approve a stormwater maintenance agreement, Town Manager Chris Chinault wrote in a memo to Zoning and Planning Board members.

The 2.9-acre site is located at the northwest corner of SR A1A and Watson Drive. The proposal surfaced at Town Hall back in August — but the grocery store company remained unidentified, sparking social media speculation.

Hairteck and Sun Clean Dry Cleaners will be razed to clear room for the 27,251-square-foot grocery store with 110 parking spaces. Both businesses will move elsewhere, Berkman announced in August.

Messages seeking comment were left for a Publix media spokesman Wednesday morning.

Source: Florida Today

Business Spotlight: Blue Orca Pools

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CERTIFIED POOL OPERATOR
NSPF CERTIFIED
CPO-533126

“Killer Service You Can Count On…”

321.329.5709


Recent Blog Post from Blue Orca:

With the Fall & Winter weather upon us and pool water temperatures dropping you may want to consider reducing the amount of time your pool filter runs each day and turn down the percentage of time your salt cell is producing chlorine.  This will:
–  save you money with your monthly electrical bill and 
–  prolong the life of your pump motor and salt cell
Over the next couple of weeks we will be adjusting your timers to run 8 – 10 hours per day now and then 6 – 8 hours in December.   If you have an automated system we sometimes need access to your remote control in order to adjust it.  Please let us know if you have any questions otherwise thank you for your business!


Visit their website: https://blueorcapoolcare.com

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is upon us. We here at Solutions Property Management salute those who have had to deal with this traumatic, life-changing illness. Please help in the fight by donating to Susan G. Komen to assist in finding a cure.

“Breast cancer changes you, and the change can be beautiful.”- Jane Cook, Breast Cancer survivor

10th Anniversary Pink Ribbon Walk Set for Oct. 6 at Port Canaveral Exploration Tower

This fun and unique, family-oriented, pet-friendly event will benefit the Cancer Care Centers of Brevard Foundation and is expected to draw more than 500 walkers and cancer survivors will join in the famous butterfly release.

Individuals and teams are welcome and a special competition will be held for Most Funds Raised, Best Dressed Team and Best Dressed Individual.

The Pink Ribbon Walk route will take walkers and runners through several waterfront properties and return them to The Cove for the celebration and Paws and Pints event that will benefit Brevard Humane Society.

The funds raised from this event will stay in Brevard County to aid patients undergoing treatment and will be distributed through Cancer Care Centers of Brevard Foundation.

For a $25 donation, each walker will receive a T-shirt and a participation medal.

Donations and sponsorships accepted by calling 407-460-7443 or email info@visitportcanaveral.com

Source: Space Coast Daily

Brevard County commissioners considering environmental rules for installing septic tanks

MERRIT ISLAND, Fla. — Tough new restrictions could make it harder for people to install a septic system in Brevard County.

  • Environmental experts believe old septic tanks are causing issues for Indian River
  • Old tanks are sending harmful nutrients into the river
  • Environmental leaders want new tanks to have higher standards
  • RELATED:
    • Satellite Beach wants state to adopt groundwater standards
    • Indian River Lagoon cleared for activities after sewage leak
    • Satellite Beach: Ground water may contain carcinogenic chemicals

On Tuesday, county commissioners are considering new rules in an effort to help the Indian River Lagoon.

Environmental experts believe septic tanks are one of the big factors behind the ailments plaguing the Indian River.

In addition, that is because many septic systems are old and too close to the lagoon and are sending harmful nutrients from homes right into the water.

A lot has changed over the years for septic systems, according to Keith Wessner and his crew from Harbor Septic LLC.

“You’re basically dealing with a mini-septic treatment plant,” said Wessner, the owner and operating manager of the company.

Up and down the Space Coast, more attention is being paid to septic tanks. Now the county commission is considering an ordinance that would require new septic systems to reduce the amount of nitrogen released by at least 65 percent.

“It’s definitely beneficial to the environment,” added Wessner.

With less nitrogen leaking into the ground water and making its way to the lagoon, the hope is the new rule will reduce the number of fish kills seen in the Indian River.

“What they’re trying to do is stop new septic tanks from being built near the lagoon unless they are efficient at removing nitrogen,” explained John Windsor of the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Citizen Oversight Committee.

Windsor, a retired Florida Tech professor, sits on the committee that oversees where money from a half-cent sales tax is spent on lagoon restoration projects.

The county is using $68 million to remove or upgrade more than 3,700 of the most polluting septic systems on the Space Coast.

The problem is the health department is permitting new septic systems at twice the rate that existing systems can be removed or upgraded.

“We’re building new homes with new septic systems, but to the old standards, the 1960s, 1970s standards, and we’re adding more septic tanks to Brevard County than we’re taking out of the county with this program,” said Windsor.

That is where environmental leaders hope this new ordinance will help, forcing new septic tanks to be built to higher standards.

It means more work for Wessner and his company.

“They come at an increased cost and increased maintenance to them but that’s part of everyone sort of doing their part to revive the lagoon,” he said.

The county Commission will consider the ordinance at 5:30 p.m. in Viera.

 

Source: Spectrum News 13