Tourists love Flagler County’s vacation rentals — so much, in fact, that they’ve rated Palm Coast the state’s top vacation spot on TripAdvisor.com, which listed it in an April 9 article headlined “6 praiseworthy Florida vacation spots to add to your bucket list.”
Meanwhile, two lawsuits about the rentals are set to move forward in the court system.
Reviews posted on the TripAdvisor website, according to the article by TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals Content Marketing Manager Dave Armenti, included this one: “The house was huge and gave our family plenty of room to spread out. Just about every bedroom had a great view of the Atlantic Ocean and we were treated to a beautiful ocean sunrise each morning.”
And this one: “Ten adults and 12 grandkids…and it was the best vacation we’ve ever had! The central location of Palm Coast even allowed us to hit Disney for a day.”
Calling Palm Coast’s condos and villas “affordable,” Armenti wrote, “Aside from the memorable accommodations, Palm Coast offers great family-friendly activities. Let Dad play a round of 18 on the golf course, while Mom and Grandma get pampered at a spa. The kids will love the lush nature preserves and pristine beaches, where dolphins and birds and manatees make their home.”
Palm Coast’s average review score on TripAdvisor was 4.72 out of five, placing it above Orlando and Sanibel Island, which both scored 4.71; Siesta Key, which scored 4.69; Kissimmee (4.67) and Marco Island (4.66).
But as vacationers enjoyed those ocean sunrises, area residents complained about the noise, trash and other nuisances created by the “mini-hotels” they stayed in, and the County Commission enacted an ordinance Feb. 19 regulating the rentals.
Vacation Rental Pros owner Steve Milo filed suit against the county a few weeks later, and is now suing the Dunes Community Development District, saying a December 2013 change in the way potable water fees are calculated could cost one of his rental businesses, 30 Cinnamon Beach Way LLC, thousands of dollars.
The fees, called “system capacity fees,” are generally based on flow for a typical residential unit, according to the legal complaint. If use exceeded that flow, during an audit, charges would be based on the amount that the usage exceeded the typical use amount.
The 2013 change allows the CDD to charge additional fees if use exceeds purchased capacity by more than 50% in any 12-month period, according to the suit, and to base its estimation of actual flow on the highest 30-day period during the audit period.
“The amended regulations are intended to and have the effect of targeting residential units such as plaintiff’s that are offered on a rental basis to third parties, in that, it captures short term increases in daily usage that occurs in the months when highest rental use occurs, despite the fact that such usage does not reflect system capacity demand on anything more than a short term basis,” according to the legal complaint. “The Amended Regulations regarding calculation of and required payment of additional SCFs are discriminatory ... and disproportionately impact owners of residential units who offer said units as vacation rentals.”
The suit, prepared by Jacksonville attorney Wayne Flowers, asks the court to declare the amended regulations invalid and enjoin the Community Development District from enforcing them.
Local attorney Michael Chiumento is representing the Community Development District.