Winter Park commissioners decided against loosening the city’s restrictions on vacation rentals, opting to maintain its ban on stays shorter than a month.
The city’s rules date back decades and were first designed to prevent homes and apartments from becoming timeshares. But as platforms like Airbnb and VRBO gained in popularity, cities and counties across the state have enacted rules of their own.
State law bans local governments from regulating the length and frequency of such stays, and does not allow them to be banned altogether. Because Winter Park’s rules were on the books prior to June 1, 2011, they were grandfathered in.
“My personal answer might be very different if the state had not pre-empted local municipalities from self-rule on this matter,” Mayor Phil Anderson said, before voting during a meeting Wednesday against moving forward with an ordinance to change the city’s rules.
Anderson, along with commissioners Sheila DeCiccio and Kris Cruzada, voted no on directing city staff to draw up a new ordinance, which would have allowed for shorter rentals in certain instances.
The city was asked to consider allowing more rentals by a resident, Rick Keith, in June. Keith wanted to rent his duplex and block out dates to allow his family to stay with him while they were in town, he said, but couldn’t do that with longer stays.
“The money is nice, I will admit that, but I’m looking more at flexibility,” he said. “What I wouldn’t have is a place for my family… to stay when they came down because I rented it down for a year.”
City commissioner Todd Weaver drew up an ordinance proposing to allow more rentals, modeled after Orlando’s rules, which require a homeowner to be on site.
Weaver’s plan limited rentals to historic properties, in hopes of encouraging more residents to register. It also capped guests at four or no more than two per room. Homeowners would be required to register with the city and pay a fee that had not been determined. He also suggested a 5% tax levied on guests paid to the city.
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Prior to being elected to the commission in 2019, Weaver rented a cottage on his property on Airbnb. In his campaign, then-incumbent Pete Weldon dinged him for doing so in violation of the city code.
At the time, Weaver said he was unaware of the city’s requirements, and changed his listing to be for stays of at least a month, before pulling it off the site.
In his proposed ordinance, he suggested not allowing commissioners to participate for at least two years.
“This doesn’t benefit me personally,” Weaver said Wednesday. “I don’t need the money – that’s not the reason.”
City attorney Kurt Ardaman warned the commission that if they allowed rentals citywide, it likely wouldn’t be able to ban them again, but that limiting them to historic districts may withstand a challenge.
“There are a lot of local governments that would love to have the grandfathered prohibition in place,” Ardaman told commissioners. “If the commission elects to modify that in some form or fashion… you run the risk of invalidating that grandfather status.”