Plantation council works on vacation rental ordinance

 Plantation is trying to protect residents from boisterous neighbors while also respecting the rights of property owners to rent out their homes.  And it’s proving to be a challenging balancing act.

The City Council debated legislation of vacation rentals (such as Airbnb) during its Feb. 20 meeting, and arrived at the conclusion that we need to rework a proposed ordinance that had been suggested for approval that night. We’ll revisit on March 20.

As you might know, the vacation rental industry is booming. More people are choosing to stay in a home rather than a hotel. Municipalities across the country are exploring how they can step in and protect their residents and actually Plantation is a little late to the game. Beachfront cities, such as Fort Lauderdale and all the way up the Atlantic Ocean coastline, have seen a massive boom in vacation rentals.

As you might expect, some of those homes are morphing into basically party houses. That’s not what you expected when you bought your home in a quiet Plantation neighborhood. And those neighbors have spoken up to us public officials, as they very well should. For a few months, the council has been addressing these concerns by trying to draft rules for vacation rentals.

Sure, we can charge rental owners – many of whom live out of the area and bought the properties solely for short-term visitors – and install rules for inspections and limits how many people can occupy a home. That is, if a home has four bedrooms, the most adults who can stay overnight could be eight.

But an unfairness surfaces in charging high fees to quiet homeowners who just rent out a room now and then. Airbnb defines those listings as “owner-occupied” and those situations create very few disturbances. Hey, if you’re living in your house are you going to let some renter throw a party and trash it?

So, like many decisions municipal leaders make, it comes down to the question: “What is fair?”

I spoke out in favor of not legislating the owner-occupied homes at all. After all, the Florida Division of Professional and Business Regulation, in its rules for vacation rental registration, exempts owner-occupied homes. Others on the council would like to see owner-occupied homes pay a fee of, say, $20, and fill out paperwork so we know who they are and where the homes are. That would be one step away from requiring all rentals of any length register with the city, a measure that Wilton Manors has recently implemented.

Whatever, all of us agree we need something in place soon. As council member Denise Horland notes, the Super Bowl is coming to South Florida in January, and the short-term rental market isn’t going to fade away.

New hire

 Denese Edsall, most recently Broward College’s executive director for Human Resources and Equity, was approved by the City Council as Plantation’s new Human Resources director on Feb. 20. She also has experience with the city of Hollywood including HR Director from 2002-07. Council members often are offered a pre-vote interview, something that I take advantage of whenever I can. In this case, I found her to be an excellent communicator who I think will be an asset to our city.

  If HR does its job right, it is a city department that most of the public will not have much interaction with. HR keeps our employees – such as those in public works, public safety and parks and recreation – informed of their benefits and of their retirement options. They also handle any employee-supervisor conflicts within the city.

Coming up

  The city council has a closed-door meeting, permissible under Florida law, at 5 p.m. Tuesday to discuss a contract with the Plantation Police. But at 9 a.m. Thursday at City Hall, the public negotiations take place.

  Plantation Middle School has a presentation, “Black History: A Time to Learn and Remember,” from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the school.

  On Thursday, the Parks and Recreation Division leads a master plan discussion, i.e., what to do with our parks over the long-term. The meeting is set for 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Plantation Central Park, and, yes, the idea is for the public to show up and provide input.

    The monthly concert series resumes Friday with Brass Evolution. Food trucks start firing up at 6 p.m. on the Central Park track, and the concert starts at 7.

 I’d also like to advise residents to mark their calendars for 7 p.m. Monday, March 4. That’s when the revived Education Advisory Board meets at City Hall. The previous council had been split on the necessity of an EAB, but after November’s election a majority of council members clearly supports it.

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