CLEARWATER - Judge Nelly Khouzam denied the City of Clearwater's motion for summary judgment in the 2 ½-year old short-term rental lawsuit on February 1st.
Twenty-two owners of rental property on North Clearwater Beach filed the suit against the City, alleging that grandfather status should be granted because their properties had been rented on a weekly basis before enactment of a 2003 City ordinance that banned short-term rentals of residential property.
The City, represented at the January 18th hearing by Assistant City Attorney Leslie Dougall-Sides, argued that short-term rentals were prohibited well before enactment of the 2003 ordinance, and that the weekly rental of those properties was not eligible for grandfathering.
The City's motion for summary judgment sought dismissal of the suit based on the property owners admission that they engaged in short term rentals, and that City code prohibited such rentals as long ago as 1980.
The property owner's attorney, Marion Hale, disagreed that short-term rentals had been banned since 1980, arguing that the City's 2003 ordinance was the first to prohibit such a land use.
Khouzam denied the City's motion. In her ruling, she wrote, "Summary judgment is proper only if there is no genuine issue of material fact." She concluded, "The Court finds the requested declaration involves factual questions which are not appropriate for summary judgment." Khouzams ruling made no findings on the merits of the case, only that summary judgment should not be granted.
David Allbritton, one of the plaintiffs in the case, was relieved by the decision. "It takes the pressure off us for the season; we're now booking for Spring Break," he said. Allbritton said that most of his co-plaintiffs are booking families, not rowdy college kids; "I can't speak for the others, but we learned our lesson on that one," he added.
"I'm not sure where it's going from here," Allbritton said, "We'll probably take it to trial. This is by no means the end of it."
Assistant City Attorney Leslie Dougall-Sides offered no comments on the outcome of her motion; "While I cannot comment on the merits of a pending case, procedurally speaking the City expects next to notice the case for trial, and the Court will then set it for trial in accordance with the Court's schedule," she wrote.
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