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St. Pete Beach homeowner taking vacation rental fight to court

ST. PETE BEACH — Planning Board member, hotel owner and longtime resident Ron Holehouse told the city through his attorney Tuesday that he plans to fight a code violation action in court.

The city's special magistrate, John Elias, agreed to postpone his review of the case as long as Holehouse stops renting a part of his Pass-a-Grille home to tourists and files a motion in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court within the next 30 days.

Holehouse will be seeking a declaratory judgment from the court that the use of part of his house, at 113 12th Ave., for tourist lodging is legal.

"He has agreed to not rent it while the code issue is being resolved. His position is that the tourist lodging is a grandfathered use, but we don't have anything in our records that indicates it is," City Manager Mike Bonfield said.

In July, the city issued a notice of violation to Holehouse, alleging that he was improperly renting part of his home to tourists and that he had remodeled part of the home without first securing a building permit.

At the time, Holehouse had denied the city's request to inspect his home to determine whether the allegations were true.

In August, Holehouse and his attorney, David Bacon, met with City Manager Mike Bonfield and Community Development Director Karl Holley to discuss the matter.

After that meeting, the special magistrate postponed any action to allow Bacon to research legal issues involving the tourist usage of the property.

"It is the position of Mr. Holehouse that such living space (used for short term rentals) lawfully exists," Bacon said at the time.

Bonfield said the city's code inspector is working with Holehouse regarding the remodeling issues to ensure the work was done according to code and possibly issue an after-the-fact permit.

The city has also cited Holehouse for unpermitted work on another property he owns in Pass-a-Grille.

Holehouse could not be reached for comment.

In addition to renting out part of his home, Holehouse also owns the Inn on the Beach, at 1401 Gulf Way in Pass-a-Grille — a tourist lodging that has 12 rooms and five cottages that are rented out year-round.

Holehouse has been active in city politics for years, serving on a variety of committees and boards, including the city's Board of Adjustment.

Most recently he was among a number of Pass-a-Grille residents who successfully fought to stop rezoning of the nearby Coconut Inn.

The Coconut Inn, one block to the south at 113 11th Ave., has a back lot that fronts on Holehouse's street, almost directly across from Holehouse's property.

The lot is used for parking for the inn, but owner Joe Caruso had hoped to be able to eventually rebuild using part of that lot.

That hope died last month when the City Commission for the second time turned down his request for Traditional Hotel District zoning.

Caruso has yet to file his threatened lawsuit against the city over that rejection. The deadline to file is Sept. 23.

Meanwhile, he is still suing the city over its rescinding of a building permit to put a gazebo on the Coconut Inn back lot.

St. Pete Beach homeowner taking vacation rental fight to court 09/13/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 3:08pm]
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