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A bill to return control of vacation rentals to local governments is awaiting Gov. Rick Scott’s signature.
“This was a hard-fought battle to return home rule to local government to be able to institute commonsense regulations on short-term vacation home rentals and preserve residential communities,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said in a county news release. “We had a lot of help starting with a unified County Commission and our legislative delegation, lobbyist and our community. In addition, counties and cities across the State joined in this effort.”
Earlier this year, after Flagler County residents complained of mini-hotels springing up in residential neighborhoods, Flagler County state legislative delegation Sen. John Thrasher and Rep. Travis Hutson filed twin House and Senate bills to repeal a 2011 bill that removed local governments’ ability to regulate the rentals.
That bill, an attempt to let cash-strapped homeowners rent out their houses to avoid foreclosure, gave rise to the phenomenon of “McMansions” — houses built in single-family neighborhoods, but designed to function as hotels, bringing in sometimes dozens of tourists at a time, and, along with them, parking problems, garbage, and traffic and noise issues.
“Senator Thrasher and I made a promise to our constituents to file a bill that would return the regulation of vacation rentals back to local government,” Hutson said in a news release May 1. “I am proud to announce that we have kept that promise.”
After Travis and Hutson announced their initiative to repeal the 2011 bill during the Oct. 16 legislative delegation meeting — drawing cheers from a crowd packed with Ocean Hammock residents who'd showed up to demand action on the "McMansions" they said were ruining their quality of life — Flagler County Commissioners Frank Meeker and Charles Ericksen went to Tallahassee on numerous trips to help push the repeal bill.
“For a county of 100,000 to lead a fight like this, working collaboratively with our legislative delegation, lobbyists and so many other cities and counties, is a testament to the type of team put together to tackle the issue,” Meeker said. “It took the strong support of our legislators, Senator John Thrasher and Representative Travis Hutson to get this legislation passed.”
Flagler County Attorney Al Hadeed said the regulation of vacation rentals should have always remained a local matter, regulated by the communities affected by it.
“So many people rallied in defense of their single-family neighborhoods. As Rep. Hutson said more than once, issues like this need to be decided at home and not by Tallahassee,” Flagler County Attorney Al Hadeed said in the news release.
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