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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2021 1 month ago

Volusia County tables decision on short-term rentals

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A total of 73 people signed up to speak on the ordinance.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

The saga on vacation rentals continues.

The Volusia County Council voted 4-1 on Tuesday, March 2, to wait and see what happens with House Bill 219 — which if passed would preempt regulation of vacation rentals to the state — before making a decision on the county's existing ordinance. Council Chair Jeff Brower voted against.

In the meantime, the county will work on putting together a committee made up of people representing all sides of the issue, to be elected to serve by council members. The temporary suspension on code enforcement actions against short-term rentals is also remaining in place, a result of a 5-2 vote. Councilmen Ben Johnson and Fred Lowry voted against, worried that a longer cease of enforcement action on the county's behalf could risk the integrity of their ordinance.

“I want to settle this thing, but I want to settle it one time, for all, for the best good of everyone," Johnson said.

According to county data presented to the council by Clay Ervin, county director of growth and resource management, there have been 860 complaints made regarding the existence of a short-term rental in a zone in which they are not allowed. Of those, 347 notices of violation were issued by the county, and 86 cases referred to the code enforcement board, where the majority resulted in dismissal once the owner complied with the county ordinance. Currently, the county ordinance prohibits short-term rentals from operating in residential zoning districts unless they are rented for 30 days or longer. 

A Florida Statute preempts a local ordinance from prohibiting vacation rentals, or regulating their duration or frequency of rental, but Volusia County's ordinance, last modified in 2004, is grandfathered in. According to the county, the Attorney General's opinion is that if changes are implemented to the ordinance, then Volusia would no longer be able to regulate vacation rentals at all. 

County data showed that non-hotel tourism-generated tax revenue totaled over $6 million for 2019 and 2020 combined. Short-term rentals fall into this category. Hotel tourism-generated tax revenue brought in over $20 million for 2019 and 2020. 

A total of 73 people signed on to speak for the item, with the majority coming from Bethune Beach. Other areas represented by speakers included Ormond-by-the-Sea and Daytona Beach.

From passionate homeowners vehemently against changing any part of the ordinance, including one homeowner who said Bethune Beach would "secede" from the county if the council allowed vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods, to property owners expressing their role in the tourism industry, the council listened to about four hours of public comment. 

“We have pitted neighbor against neighbor, and it’s time to stop," said Brower, who wished to move the ordinance to the Planning and Land Development Review Committee rather than wait for the state. 

County Councilwoman Barb Girtman expressed concern that the county could make a decision for all its constituents based primarily on feedback from Bethune Beach homeowners.

“What’s happening there to me is not representative to what’s happening Volusia-wide," she said. 

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