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Marco Island City Council discussed the proposed short-term rental ordinance for the first time after a referendum passed during August’s primary election.  

The ordinance, created by political action committee Take Back Marco, aims to enforce regulations for those who rent out their homes for less than 30 days more than three times in a year. The referendum passed at the polls with 57% in favor.

Prior to Monday’s council meeting, Take Back Marco submitted to city staff two pages of edits to the ordinance it constructed and changes the city requested that were accepted by the committee. Some of these changes include incorporating parking restrictions as information provided to occupants, clarifying when the noise ordinance applies and allowing city council to determine the fine for operating a rental without a valid registration.

There was a large turnout for public comment, with residents like Rozine Grey who bought a house on Marco Island two years ago after being told none of the neighboring houses were rentals.

“I move in and next door to me is a short-term rental, one house down the street from me is another short-term rental that changes hands every four days,” Grey said. “This is the kind of thing that’s happening here and when the trend in the country is to limit these short-term rentals, where’s Marco Island in this? It’s not progressive.”

Others expressed concern the ordinance could create a hostile environment within the community from enacting stricter regulations regarding noise, parking, trash and more.

“If you’re going to file petty complaints against neighbors and you’re going to file petty complaints against businesses, then pretty soon you are going to have people that don’t feel very family friendly when they come here and it is a tourist island, as well as a place to live and enjoy,” Liz Folk said during public comment.

Council member Rich Blanna was quick to make a motion to approve the ordinance with the proposed amendments by Take Back Marco. However, vice chair Jared Grifoni expressed council should vote on exactly what the residents voted for at the ballot, without any changes.

“The citizens deserve to have this council also vote on what they voted on,” Grifoni said. “If it was good enough to put on the ballot, and it was good enough for the citizens to have to be subjected to months of political wrangle, and then good enough for them to vote on, why is it not good enough for us as a council to vote on it?”

Grifoni proceeded to make an alternative motion to pass the ordinance without the amendments. Council member Becky Irwin was also in favor of passing the ordinance without the amendments to get a better understanding of the legality of what is being proposed.

“I would vote to pass it as it was written, and the reason I would is because I’m not an attorney and I would like to see what is actually constitutional, what is legal and what is not,” Irwin said. “As we all know, I own a home on Marco Island, and I rent it and so I know from my perspective and from an owner’s perspective how a lot of these things are problematic practice in a practical sense.”

Noise regulation has been one of the biggest talking points in debate over the ordinance. Marco Island Police Chief Tracy Frazzano explained to council why having a separate, stricter ordinance specifically for rentals may create conflict.

“Things that are not really addressed in [the ordinance] here are animals, dogs barking, babies crying, kids playing in the pool, people talking loudly by the pool, these could all be violations now that are reported on this ordinance the way that it’s written,” Frazzano said.

Frazzano went on to explain that the lack of detail about noise control will make it more difficult for the city’s police to enforce the regulations.

“Our whole thing when we came up with the noise ordinance was to focus on noise levels, not content,” Frazzano said. “And we feel that the noise ordinance, the way it’s presented here, there’s a lot of ambiguity to it and it makes it extremely harder to enforce.”

Chairman Erik Brechnitz said it was appropriate to vote on the ordinance with the proposed amendments since the edits don’t change the entire purpose of the referendum. “My preference would be [Blanna’s] motion because I think the amendments that were made were for the most part technical, comply with state statutes and those kinds of definitions that are consistent with the way the state defines things,” he said.

Grifoni’s motion to pass the ordinance without Take Back Marco’s changes failed 4-3. Blanna’s motion to approve the ordinance with the amendments passed 5-2 with Grifoni and Irwin in disfavor.

The city’s staff and attorney will bring back to council an official redlined document showing the edited ordinance for another first reading, planned to be held Oct. 17.

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