Jacksonville Beach proposal would crackdown on short-term rentals

Neighbors: Short-Term rentals are disrupting community

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The city of Jacksonville Beach is working to draft an ordinance allowing short-term rental properties to be regulated at the local level.

Some Jacksonville Beach homeowners we spoke to say they’re losing sleep and peace of mind due to traffic at a short-term rental.

They say the property is operating as a “hotel” in their residential neighborhood.

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“It’s disrupted the lives of all the neighbors,” said Lorraine Kenny, Jax Beach homeowner. “And every weekend for the last two years, we’ve had in excess of five to 16-plus people!”

Greg and Lorraine Kenny live near the Jacksonville Beach property. They say it’s common to hear loud noises coming from the house at night and tell us street parking is sometimes hard to find.

“There’s parking for five over there,” said Greg. “And very often they’re stretched up and down the block.”

Lorraine tells us she likes that tourists are visiting Jacksonville Beach, but feels the constant traffic comes as a cost to neighbors.

“They’re here to have a good time, and we’d like them to have a good time here at our beaches,” she said. “But it is a residential neighborhood.”

What could regulation look like?

Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham tells Action News Jax Reporter Ryan Nelson he would like to see short-term rental property owners pay a bed tax, and hopes the city is able to limit occupancy.

Latham says there are about 400 short-term rentals around Jacksonville Beach, but not all of them become topics of concern for neighbors.

“What we’re hoping to accomplish is set mechanisms in place that allow us to handle the bad actors without setting negative policies towards everybody,” said Latham.

Owners and operators respond to neighbors’ concerns, talks of regulation

James “Mike” Vinci, president of ‘Welcome Home Rentals’, which manages the property near the Kenny family, sent Nelson a statement about neighbors’ concerns, and the city’s efforts to regulate.

“As long-time residents of Jacksonville Beach and small business owners, we support the mayor and city council in their efforts to create ordinances that have a positive impact on the local short-term rental business while protecting the rights of our neighbors,” said Vinci. “We’re proud to share Jacksonville Beach with visitors from around the world and happy to provide a home-away-from-home experience to families who prefer to stay together in a comfortable setting.”

Action News Jax located the property on popular booking websites Airbnb and VRBO. We reached out to both companies for comment as well.

“We know from experience throughout Florida that simple, streamlined and inexpensive registration processes for short-term rentals yield high compliance rates for cities,” said Airbnb spokesperson Benjamin Breit. “We have indicated to the city our willingness and excitement to partner with them on a system that promotes both compliance and the protection of quality of life for all residents.”

We are still waiting to hear back from VRBO.

What happens next?

After listening to the concerns of neighbors, and owners and operators of local short-term rentals in recent town halls, Mayor Latham tells us the city attorney is drafting a new version of the proposed ordinance.

He says the new version will become public just before it goes before the City’s Planning Commission on July 22.

Latham says it will be amended based on the concerns presented recently by those involved.

Florida cities have struggled to regulate short-term rental properties since 2011 

Latham says cities around the state have fought for their right to regulate these properties at the local level since 2011.

According to the city’s proposed ordinance, that’s the year the State of Florida took away local governments’ power to regulate “… local land use issues and decisions under the Home Rule authority...”

The most recent draft of the ordinance proposed by the city says the state “… preempted the local regulation, restriction or prohibition of vacation rentals based solely on their classification, use or occupancy.”

But, cities did regain some of their powers in 2014 when the Florida Legislature, “… rescinded portions of the previous preemption but provided that local governments may not prohibit or regulate the frequency or duration of short-term vacation rentals…”

That’s why Latham says they’re doing everything in their power to find a solution that works for all involved.

“I’m all for the property rights,” said Latham. “But everybody’s got property rights.”