Responding to residents of St. Armands and Lido Keys who are upset about what they call "hotel houses" that they say are ruining their neighborhoods, the Sarasota City Commission voted unanimously late Tuesday to move ahead with new regulations intended to curtail large-scale vacation rentals.
The ordinance limits the number of guests who can stay overnight in a vacation rental to 10 or 12, depending on the neighborhood. It also forces vacation rental property owners to register with the city and identify “responsible parties” who can respond to complaints 24 hours a day. The rules do not affect condominiums or properties where the owner lives on the property.
The debate over whether to regulate large vacation rentals has intensified in recent months, as the industry has spread on St. Armands and Lido, where some houses are advertised as being to accommodate as many as 25 guests. At Tuesday's hearing, dozens of residents from the barrier islands complained about noise from large groups, rowdy late-night parties, congestion on streets and large amounts of trash.
Many of the large homes being rented out are operated by Lido Key Vacations, which is affiliated with the Ohio development company Casto and Shawn Kaleta, who has also worked in the vacation rental industry on Anna Maria Island and Siesta Key.
The commission did make some modifications to the proposed ordinance, including reducing the fee property owners must pay to register with the city and eliminating some reporting requirements.
Fred Moore, an attorney with the Bradenton firm Blalock Walters, spoke on behalf of Lido Key Vacations. He said that the company isn't opposed to all regulations, but that the proposed rules are "onerous." He also argued that St. Armands and Lido have long been a destination for tourists.
"Lido and St. Armands is and always has been a vacation destination," he said.
Chris Goglia, the president of the St. Armands Residents Association, which has led opposition to the vacation rental industry, said "hotel houses" that serve large groups are businesses that simply don't fit in residential neighborhoods. "Groups that size, I think, would be better served by the city's many wonderful hotel and resort businesses," he said.
"There's an overwhelming majority of people on Lido who would like to see this in place," said Vice Mayor Erik Arroyo, explaining his support for the ordinance.
The commission discussed implementing similar rules citywide, but no official action was taken Tuesday. The current ordinance must be approved a second time in early May before taking effect. If approved, the new occupancy limits would go into effect at the beginning of 2022.