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Sarasota City Leaders Say They Need More Input Before Placing New Rules on 'Hotel Houses'

The Sarasota City Commission will seek more input before enacting regulations aimed at large rental properties.
The Sarasota City Commission will seek more input before enacting regulations aimed at large rental properties.

The Sarasota City Commission this week debated if it needs an ordinance beefing up oversight of vacation rentals.

For over a year, residents of Sarasota's beach communities have asked the city to regulate "hotel houses" — large homes targeting groups of vacationers.

A recent public hearing at the City Commission offered no immediate solutions.

Residents have complained about problems with new large vacation properties being rented in their neighborhoods. The properties can accommodate 20 guests or more. Homeowners like Bob Zimmerman of Lido Key say they attract loud parties and traffic problems.

"I think these properties place most everyone in a bad position,” he told commissioners. "They affect the property manager who has to deal with irate residents, the tenants who are paying a lot of money to party in paradise and are shocked by a surprise visit from the police, and the city which allows these in the first place.”

Public testimony lasted for more than an hour and a half Tuesday night, with the bulk of comment coming from frustrated residents.

"These hotel houses are destroying our neighborhoods,” said Lucretia Tuffile of St. Armands Key. “They party all day and it’s not right. We are a residential community, not spring break all the time."

But other residents worry regulations, such as maximum occupancy rules and rental property registration, would go too far. Deb Mackiewicz of Lido Key owns and rents two small beach cottages near her home.

"I respect both sides of the contentious problems at hand, yet I believe the proposed provisions in front of the council are overly burdensome and overreaching."

In the end, a majority of commissioners said they were worried regulations could hurt small mom and pop owners. Sarasota's city attorney was directed to research the issue further, and Mayor Hagen Brody said the commission will revisit the issue once that work is complete.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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