LARGO — This may not be a resort town that draws rowdy spring breakers, but its proximity to all things beachy and touristy may lead to an influx of short-term rentals — such as those serviced by Airbnb.
And, of course, with more tourists come more complaints — potential headache-inducing scenarios that city officials are working to prevent from becoming a reality.
State law, however, prohibits local governments from adopting rules prohibiting vacation rentals from operating. With caution, the City Commission recently discussed how it would move forward with an ordinance on short-term rentals.
Proposed regulations included maximum occupancy limits, parking requirements, minimum life/safety requirements and requiring a local "Designated Responsible Party" whose contact information must be posted onsite and can respond to complaints within two hours.
Commissioner Curtis Holmes voiced concern that the rentals serve the same function as motels and hotels but might circumvent fire safety requirements imposed on multi-unit commercial establishments.
Assistant City Attorney Nikki Day explained that, according to state law, a short-term rental is still classified as a residence. To impose strict, cost-prohibitive regulations could prevent someone from renting out a home and, as a result, pre-empt the state law that gives property owners the right to provide short-term rentals.
"So, it can look like a duck, walk like a duck and talk like a duck and it's not a duck," Holmes retorted.
City Manager Henry Schubert also shared feedback he received from the Pinellas Realtors Association and a property management organization.
"Both of those representatives thought what we proposed was very reasonable," Schubert said. "Both organizations said the vast majority of people in this business are responsible, and the few that aren't need to be dealt with."
Day said staff would complete the ordinance and likely bring it back to the commission for first reading in March.