Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater council tackles short-term rental ban minefield

CLEARWATER — When the Florida legislative session ended and Clearwater's ban on short-term rentals looked unscathed, the City Council breathed a sigh of relief.

The city's hard-fought ban of hotel-style stays in North Clearwater Beach homes was saved, even as the state forbid new bans against "vacation rentals." Close call, right?

Not quite. With the city now seeking to enforce the ban on Sand Key, officials are finding their trouble was just postponed. If they amend the ban, they risk voiding it citywide.

Backing the ban has become a minefield for the council, which must deal with state pressure, a possible lawsuit and the angering of dozens of condo owners who have depended on the rentals for decades.

On one side they contend with residents complaining that renters' bad manners are a next-door nuisance. On the other, landlords say their property rights demand protection — and they're willing to go to court to prove it.

"I really like none of my choices," council member Paul Gibson said Tuesday, during a rental discussion at City Hall. "This looks and smells entirely like the North Beach situation."

History is not exactly on the city's side. On Sand Key, Lighthouse Towers and the Crescent Beach Club have allowed condo owners to rent 14-day stays for nearly 30 years. And in 2007, a state appeals court set a precedent when it sided with North Beach landlords in their lawsuit against the city, allowing more than 30 short-term rental homes to be grandfathered into law.

Yet as the North Beach battle raged, Sand Key remained silent. Until recently, the city had fielded no rental complaints over the last eight years from Lighthouse or Crescent. Sand Key is farther from the tourists and bustle than North Beach, and its streets are typically quieter during the wild weeks of spring break.

But the lack of complaints wasn't due to lack of rental activity, said city planning and development director Michael Delk. About 80 percent of the 350 or so condos at Lighthouse and Crescent are owned as second homes or investments. The number of short-term rentals nearly equals that of full-time residents.

Some in the towers say the problems proved problematic over time. Allen and Julie Trumbo, in a letter to the city, wrote they had bought their Lighthouse condo for the short-term renters' pay but soured after living among them.

"I have seen 18 people sharing a 1 bedroom condo," they wrote. "The disruption in the public areas is disturbing. We routinely need to add extra security on holidays to handle these people."

The city must enforce its code, City Manager Bill Horne said, even if it conflicts with the condo association's agreement. "When I get a complaint," Horne said, "I can't ignore it."

But showing teeth after a long lull isn't that simple, said Clearwater attorney Marion Hale, who helped North Beach homeowners win their case and has been retained by Lighthouse condo owner Robert Ciccone.

Enforcing and interpreting the law differently, she said, would require an amendment of the city's code. But the state's limit for grandfathered bans ended two weeks ago, making any new amendment too late for law.

"They have ignored this situation on Sand Key for eight years, and now they want to change that and they want to change the rules," Hale said. "They're seeking a cure for a problem that doesn't exist. And when you do that, you can find yourself sticking your hand in a hornet's nest."

Council members on Tuesday made no decision on how to proceed, though no one seemed open to the risk of voiding the ban.

(Vice Mayor George Cretekos, a Crescent condo owner since 1998, recused himself and left the council chambers.)

Council member John Doran said gaps in personnel force the city to respond to complaints only as it receives them.

"If (Hale) is saying because there have been no enforcement actions until now, that stops us from enforcing," he said, "I respectfully disagree."

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or

Clearwater council tackles short-term rental ban minefield 06/15/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 16, 2011 7:44am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies


    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.