Sarasota City Commission Advances Plans to Extend Vacation Rental Regulations Citywide

SARASOTA, Fla. - The ongoing discussion surrounding vacation rental regulations in Sarasota city commission meetings has taken a significant step forward this week, with city leaders moving forward with plans to expand an existing ordinance governing short-term rentals to encompass the entire city.

Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch emphasized that over the years, it has become increasingly evident that issues related to vacation rentals, including disturbances from parties, noise, trash, and safety concerns, extend beyond the barrier islands.

Ahearn-Koch stated, "This is happening in our neighborhoods in Arlington Park, Laurel Park, and all over the city. All of the neighborhoods have come out and said we are experiencing it too, please help us too."

Kelly Brown, a Gillespie Park resident for seven years, highlighted the significant changes she has observed in her neighborhood over time. She described the transition from having long-term renter neighbors to now having a minimum of two Airbnb rentals on every block in her neighborhood. Brown detailed the disruptions caused by these rentals, such as obstructing sidewalks with parked vehicles, prolonged placement of trash cans on curbs, and frequent weekend parties that violate the seven-day rule.

Brown and other residents on the city's mainland are encouraged to see city leaders taking steps to extend the existing ordinance.

Currently, it is estimated that approximately 700 short-term vacation rentals operate within the city limits, excluding the barrier islands. The expansion of regulations will also introduce a new fee structure to cover program costs.

Ahearn-Koch explained, "Right now, the cost is about $130,000 a year. It is projected that when we go citywide, in the second year, it is going to be $315,000. We have heard from those same residents impacted by these hotel houses in our neighborhoods, and they support the program, so we had to increase the fees to ensure the fee structure can cover the program's costs."

Presently, the application fee stands at $250, with a $150 renewal rate. The proposed fee structure will increase to $500 for applications and $350 for renewals. These fees will help fund code enforcement officers dedicated to regulating the city's short-term rentals.

Commissioner Ahearn-Koch stated, "This initiative is essentially aimed at ensuring safety, limiting the number of bedrooms in a house, and raising fees to cover the program's expenses so that we can effectively regulate it."

The timeline for when the issue will return to the commission for a first reading and public hearing remains uncertain.