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City ponders beach rezoning

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City Council members discuss what to do about private homes being used for overnight rentals.By LESTER R. DAILEY Article published on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2004 Print E-MailCLEARWATER BEACH – In April 2003, the City Council noted that prohibited short-term rentals of residential properties are apparently commonplace in the Old Florida District of Clearwater Beach and asked the city’s Planning Department to investigate. Last week, Gina Clayton of that department made her report to the City Council and asked the council members’ guidance on how to proceed.“We believe that 50 percent of that residential (property) is used for overnight accommodations,” Clayton reported after studying 74 parcels on almost 12 acres. “We believe that, clearly, there needs to be an evaluation. We need to determine what it is that we need to happen in the Old Florida District.”Old Florida is one of eight districts created by Beach by Design, the city’s master redevelopment plan for Clearwater Beach. It is a transition area between the residential neighborhoods to the north and the tourist district to the south.It is actually two districts in one, with motels and businesses along Mandalay Avenue, and the side streets supposedly residential. But it is an open secret that many of the residences are actually de facto motels, instead of being owner-occupied.“This area has always been … short-term accommodations,” Councilman Hoyt Hamilton said. “There is very little residential in this area.”Clayton offered three possible options for dealing with the situation. The city could do nothing and continue to live with the situation as it now exists, she said, but recommended against it.The second option would be to legalize the short-term rental of residences in the portion of the study area west of Mandalay Avenue. But Clayton also recommended against that option because it might cause parking problems.The third option, which Clayton endorsed, would be to create a Resort Facility Overlay. That would have the effect of freezing things where they are now and starting from scratch with future development.Houses that are now used for overnight accommodations would be grandfathered in, even if they were illegally converted from private residences. But owner-occupied homes could not convert to short-term rentals. New homes could be built for either private or rental use, but could not switch from one to the other.“The Planning Department recommends Option 3 since it recognizes the historical development of this area, as well as the viability of both residential and overnight accommodations without the introduction of commercial uses,” Clayton wrote.And the council members agreed.“I would actually support your Option 3 and your recommendation,” Mayor Brian Aungst told Clayton. “I think it’s the best option.”But before it can be implemented, further study is needed, the land use designation of the property west of Mandalay must be changed. Beach by Design must be amended and the area must be rezoned to the new district.Source: http://www.tbnweekly.com/content_articles/092204_cit-02.txt
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