Thursday, October 13, 2005

Transient Rentals - Update

I was going to write more on this topic today. Instead, I expended the writing energy on replying to an e-mail sent by a local resident to the webmaster of the Key West Neighborhood Association web site. I'd like to share the content of the e-mail and my reply to it here.

The writer's e-mail was in response to the following:

Subj:Update on the "Unsettling Settlement"
> Date:10/12/2005 11:14:12 PM Eastern Standard Time
> From:webmaster@wecandobetter.net
> To
>
>
> Neighbors,
>
> The "lame duck" Commission tabled the "Transient
> Rental Settlement Agreement" to next week's meeting: October 18.
>
> It's imperative that we let the new Commission know how
> we feel about the prospect of universal transient rentals.
>
> There are e-mail links to all the Commissioners on the pages
> linked to http://www.kwna.org/ .
>
> It's hard to believe that we have to go through this again, but time is
> short. Many of us are baffled at how the press has been strangely
> silent on this issue. Please pass this message on to anyone
> you know who can help.
>
> Did you know that last May the Commission effectively already
> legalized transient use in the Truman Annex? This "Settlement"
> is just a grab for more, and a plan to set things up to do it all
> over the City.
>
> How fair is it that someone who claims they relied on the
> erroneous "50% rule" can now get a license, but those who respected
> our zoning and thought it wasn't legal can never do it legally, even
> if they live right next door?
>
> There are better, more beneficial ways to handle this zoning issue.
>
> There is more information at http://www.kwna.org/ . All of our properties
> will be worth more if we can hold the line of this commercialization of our
> residential areas.
>
> Please help by forwarding this message, and by e mailing or calling our
> Commissioners and Mayor. We'll all end up with a better community if they take
> a good look at this "Settlement" before being pressured to vote it in.
>
> Thanks for your support,
>
> Your neighbors in all parts of Key West
>
>
>
> KEY WEST NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATIONS
> "Working together to improve our Community"
> http://www.kwna.org/


And here's the response to that:

October 13, 2005
>
> Dear Webmaster,
>
> I don't know if you know how to do blind copies, but not everyone may want to
> see who is on your e-mail list. I don't.
>
> Secondly, the language that you and others are using regarding Transient
> Rental Proposals are not constructive to settling the issue. I'm still confused
> as to what you are advocating unless its an absolute ban on renting. You seem
> to be a big advocate of "Affordable Housing" in Old Town but fail to realize
> that the people needing "Affordable Housing" are largely transient. The basic
> constitutional right of private property rights are a highly sensitive issue
> to me and who lives in my house is no body's business. I often invite guests
> to stay in my house or guesthouse for a brief period of time for no
> consideration. Is that allowable or are you going to have a litmus test for
> my guests?
>
> The recent Supreme Court decision is a very dangerous precedent in favor of
> development where I think our energies should be concentrated to overturn.
>
> Some of the present owners of property in Old Town and elsewhere are undesirable in
> my view but I'm not advocating they be thrown out of town. If it hadn't been
> for the ability to rent a vacation home in Key West, I would have never
> bought here, and it's the "Transient Owners" who have bid up the prices of
> property with the same idea. To advocate no rentals would change the character
> of our beloved community beyond recognition and it would become a Beverly Hills or
> Naples.
>
> I agree that one rule affecting Property owners in Truman Annex is very
> unfair to other owners in Town and should be changed or there will be numerous
> other lawsuits. I also agree there should be some limits on rentals and
> enforcement of present laws regarding disturbing the peace. garbage, etc.
>
> To forge a proposal that all sides can be satisfied should be the goal of your
> organization and not simply send an inflammatory e-mail alerting people to the
> sinking of the Titanic. I would love to see something POSITIVE come from your
> organization and quite frankly, I'm very sympathetic to many of your causes and thank
> you for your vigilance.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> M. Campbell Cawood
> 320 Peacon Lane


And finally, here's what I wrote in response to that:

Dear M. Campbell Wood,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter on the matter of the Transient
Rental Ordinance. I am a "member" of the Key West Neighborhood Association,
simply by virtue of having registered my name with them and by joining their
Yahoo! group. Like you, I am sympathetic to many of the positions taken by
the KWNA. I agree with you about sending e-mail addresses 'in the clear'
and would also urge the webmaster to mask that information when sending mass
e-mails.

That said, I'd like to offer my opinion on the forthcoming transient rental
resolution. I have written about the resolution and its included agreement
on my Key West web log,
TheRealKeyWest.com
.

As to the points you raise in your letter to the webmaster, please consider
the following:

1. There is nothing in the law that could prevent you from having invited
guests in your home for whatever length of time you desire. If you are
suggesting that such an outcome is possible if the agreement with TAMPOA is
not ratified as it is, that is a straw-man argument, and you shouldn't make
it. If on the other hand, you fear such an outcome possible, I encourage
you to verify with the City or your own counsel on such matters that what I
say is correct.

2. The Supreme Court's Kelo decision is not, in my opinion, germane to this
matter either. Its ruling is about the eminent domain taking of private property
for public purposes. The matter at hand is regulation, not eminent domain taking.

(It is, however, germane to the earlier TAMPOA agreement
concerning Southard Street and the imposition of destructive (to Bahama
Village) restrictions on how the City may control its own streets such as
Truman Avenue and Petronia Street.)

3. Of course, you have a perfect right to rent your "vacation" home to
whomever you wish whenever you wish for whatever amount you wish -- as long
as you rent it for at least 28 days at a time. What you aren't allowed to
do is to rent for less than the 28 days unless you hold a valid transient
rental license from the City and pay the appropriate fees and taxes on the
property. I'm quite sure that you and others would like it if the City
gave you such a license for only $1,500. If I owned property, I would like it too.
But that doesn't make it right.

Taking residential properties out of the City's housing stock to make them
available for short term rental to tourists is destructive to the
stock of affordable housing for those who work here and service the tourist
economy.

For the City to simply "grant away" transient rental rights to every owner
in Truman Annex, and for the paltry amount of $1,500, when such licenses are
being bought and sold for tens of thousands of dollars, is a blatant
giveaway by the City for reasons I still can't fathom. It may be
capitulation to wealthy interests to avoid litigation. It might be
something more nefarious. If the City Attorney, The City Manager and his
staff, and the City Commission can't or won't renegotiate the proposed
agreement with TAMPOA, then I fear the City is in for another protracted
time of litigation. That will enrich only the lawyers (and the property
owners IF they prevail). It will further impoverish the City and its
taxpayers no matter what the outcome. If they can't or won't, or if TAMPOA
won't back down from their threats, then perhaps we need new people in those
positions who will recognize what's good for all citizens and not just those few
who are intent on taking advantage of the rest of us.

Like you, I favor action that will "forge a proposal that all sides can be
satisfied" [with]. We are renters here, in Bahama Village, by choice and by
necessity. We've lived here for about five years and have come to love the
City for what it is. We fear what it could become if agreements like this
one and the earlier TAMPOA traffic agreement are allowed to stand.

I'll be at the Commission meeting on Tuesday. I plan to urge the Commission
to delay action on the Resolution until a different agreement can be forged
or, failing that, for the City to do what is right for the majority of us
who will be irreparably harmed by the agreement as it is now written. I
hope that you'll be there too and will support such an approach.

Sincerely,

Bob Kelly
927 Thomas Street, #3

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