Sarasota City Commission to take up rental issue on Monday

Opponents of short-term, host-occupied accommodations say it will lead to residential commercialization


SARASOTA — The Sarasota City Commission on Monday will consider amending its zoning code to explicitly allow host-occupied short-term rentals for less than a week — a potential move that faces fierce opposition from a property owners association.

Currently, the city’s code doesn’t have a clear allowance for property owners who are present and rent out a room or a guest house for a day or two, said Commissioner Hagen Brody, who requested the item be considered by his fellow board members to get their pulse on the issue. Brody says discussing amending the code to make it clear to homeowners that being present and renting a room for less than a week will help those on fixed incomes, such as senior citizens or young homeowners, to pad their pockets while helping the local economy.

“You get a very eclectic clientele that seeks to rent in kind of an Airbnb fashion or a host-occupied room-fashion,” Brody said, adding the city’s code is “gray” on the matter.

“They want to experience the community. They want to visit the local restaurants and coffee shops as opposed to the traditional tourist experience,” he said, adding a potential change in the code is a “reasonable adjustment to our zoning code for something that is already taking place.”

Brody cautions that this issue is different from the city’s current vacation rental ordinance, which does not require a host to be present and imposes a one-week minimum on the rentals to avoid high-turnover in residential areas and the commercialization of neighborhoods.

“I do think the commercialization of private neighborhoods is an issue that we need to be wary of, but this is a very separate issue,” Brody said.

Still, some residents plan to protest on Monday.

“Commissioner Brody has publicly voiced his desire to allow what are called ‘host-occupied vacation rental units’ in residential neighborhoods, and has quietly placed the issue on the November 19th Sarasota City Commission agenda,” the Lido Shores Property Owners Association said Thursday in a statement.

Residents there fear Airbnb will buy homes to rent out and break the city’s laws. They also expressed concerns about how the city will verify that a host is on site.

“In concept and in theory it does sound good — that wouldn’t this be great if mom and pop who are retirees make a few extra dollars and rent out a room,” Lido Shores resident Bob Thill said.

“We’re adamantly opposed to what we call the commercialization of residential neighborhoods,” Thill also said.