Same Song, Second Verse
By Vicki Jackson
"North Clearwater Beach residents will continue to live with short-term renters in their midst". There's nothing new here, since this statement first appeared in the Clearwater Gazette edition of April 26, 2007!
Earlier this month, the paper revealed that at the April meeting of the Clearwater Beach Association, "President Sue Johnson reported that she had met with City Planning Director, Michael Delk. She reported that he had given the owner of 735 Eldorado permits to do short term rentals, but, she explained, he had done so only after they had presented all the documents required to prove that the property should be grandfathered as a short term rental use."
When a lawsuit, filed by some rental property owners in 2006, culminated in allowing such grandfathering, only 31 single-family homes were specifically identified. While the City argued that such rentals had always been illegal and were prohibited by earlier Codes, the Court ruled otherwise. It allowed that select properties were exempt from restrictions under Ordinance No. 7105-03, which the City of Clearwater had revised in April of 2003, in an attempt to alleviate the abuses of noise, littering and illegal parking on North Beach, in particular by short term renters.
As a result of the lawsuit, the list of properties allowed to continue to be rented short term included:
That was supposed to be the end of it but, with the recent declaration of yet another qualifying property, residents were left to wonder how this could happen. The City policy to determine whether short-term rentals are a "legal non-conforming use" requires applicants to document, among other things, the length, frequency, and continuation of use. Such property would have had to have been rented short-term prior to adoption of Ordinance 7105-03, continuously, and could not have held homestead status for any two of those years. Proof of this would necessitate presentation of valid rental contracts, receipts for payment of taxes, and observations of and results of investigations by City staff. According to Mr. Delk, the property owner spent over a year providing such substantiation and "had met all the criteria," and had voluntarily agreed on restrictions to limit any potential negative impacts on the neighborhood, such as the number of guests and vehicles.
Readers may recall that, following the loss of the lawsuit, the City had promised, "Our staff will continue to do our due diligence with investigating all reported property violations regarding short-term rentals." Since some residents have reportedly said that recent tenants of the subject property have claimed to be renting long-term, this remains to be seen.
When asked how many more exemptions we might expect, the Director expressed, with some confidence, "I think that what we have, give or take one or two" is the end of it. Meanwhile, the residents of North Clearwater Beach are hoping this is not the "song that never ends."
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