Thursday, September 29, 2005

Transient Rentals - MORE!

John Mertz of the Key West Neighborhood Association, a member of Hometown Key West PAC, and a candidate for Mayor in 2003, is on the job, raising an alarm about a pending resolution of the City Commission that is likely to remove restrictions against Transient Rentals in Truman Annex and, perhaps, in the rest of the City.

The effects of this resolution, if passed, are dire. The resolution is being presented for Commission approval the day AFTER City elections, but will be voted on by the Commissioners currently on the Commission. Whose idea was this? Is there a fix in, one that gives away up to 500 transient licenses at a cost of a trivial $1500, to property owners in all of Truman Annex, including The Shipyard Condominiums. Transient licenses are being traded for upwards of $50,000 today. Do you want Truman Annex, The Shipyard, and perhaps the house next door to you, to become a hotel for twenty-five weeks a year?

The purpose of the resolution is to implement an agreement between no more than a dozen Truman Annex residents who have filed, or are prepared to file, suits against the City for the restoration of a right they never had. The only resident who can claim that right, to rent their property on a transient basis to anyone for up to 25 weeks a year, is one Kathy Rollinson, a property owner in The Shipyard. She claims the right because she won a lawsuit against the City granting it to her.

Rollinson was vary careful to obey regulations, to get a business license, to keep careful records, to not rent for more than twenty-five weeks. A few other owners, only a ten or twelve, claim to have followed those same regulations, but their claims haven't been submitted to legal scrutiny, at least not in court. The rest either have never rented transiently, or if they have, they've done so without obeying the regulations, illegally, have avoided paying taxes, etc. There is NO CONCEIVABLE REASON why these others should be given any right to rent short-term, nor should the remaining few who claim a right be granted it unless they can prove beyond a shadow that they are "similarly situated" to Rollinson in every respect.

As John points out in his message, housing that disappears into the transient rental pool decreases the supply of housing available for long-term renters, and everyone knows what happens when a supply decreases: prices go up.

The resolution would have been on the agenda on September 20 had that meeting not been cancelled because of HUrricane Rita. Even so, I was prepared to oppose its passage then because the current Commissioners would be binding their duly elected successors just two weeks before they took office. That's simply wrong. There is no urgent need to pass the resolution next Tuesday. In fact, there is serious doubt on the part of some that the resolution and the agreement is being processed in a proper way. It will grant 500 variances to the transient rental ordinance now in force, without scrutiny by the City's planners, the Planning Board, or the Board of Adjustment, all of which require a more deliberate examination of the effects of the variances on the community at large.

Slow down, Commissioners. If you are re-elected, you'll still have your chance to vote on an agreement. If you aren't, you have no business participating in such a destructive giveaway.

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