At first blush, I really didn’t think I had a dog in this fight.
After all, I don’t own rental property and my experience with short-term rentals is limited to my family’s increasing use of online “sharing” services like Airbnb and VRBO – sites that pair vacationers and business travelers with hosts around the world.
I enjoy the convenience of renting a larger space – such as a private home or condominium – often for less than the cost of a chain hotel.
If you haven’t tried it, I strongly encourage you to consider it.
The more I ruminated on the issue, the more I realized that anyone with a vested interest in the health and future of the Daytona Beach Resort Area should keep an eye on how our ‘powers that be’ ultimately settle the growing battle between the City of Daytona Beach and owners of short-term rental properties – both of which depend on a vibrant tourism industry.
On Monday, Circuit Judge Leah Case found merit in the property owner’s case and the lawsuit will continue.
As I understand it, short-term vacation rentals are currently prohibited in most residential areas of the city by an ordinance dating to 1993, which, among other things, sets rules requiring a minimum rental of six months duration.
Although current regulations permit the practice in certain “tourist zoning districts,” vacation rentals are a no-no in most neighborhoods.
Apparently, the city didn’t begin enforcing the prohibition with any regularity until 2015.
In my view, this expensive and time-consuming fight is unfortunate – and its time that the City of Daytona Beach and other municipalities in the mosaic of communities in east Volusia County awaken to the benefits of this growing segment of the state’s tourism economy.
You don’t have to venture very far into many neighborhoods in Daytona Beach – especially on the languishing beachside – to see the devastation that has resulted from a stagnating service-based economy, decades of neglect, a lack of strategic vision and almost non-existent code enforcement.
In certain areas, malignant blight is so prevalent that it creates a gut-wrenching visual.
The deplorable condition of once vibrant residential and commercial districts is defining our community in the eyes of residents and visitors alike – and that’s not a good thing for the future of tourism on Florida’s Fun Coast.
When investors purchase dilapidated properties and renovate them into a marketable short-term rental – it has a radiating effect in the surrounding area, slows the spread of blight and proves that pride in appearance can be equally contagious.
According to the intrepid Mary Synk, who owns short term rental property in Daytona Beach, these renovations are performed at private expense, without tax abatement or government incentives, and the construction and ongoing maintenance provides jobs, such as landscaping, property management and other trades while increasing sales at local businesses.
In addition, allowing sharing services to collect and remit occupancy taxes on behalf of hosts would contribute to the overall economic health of our community.
In fact, a recent study by Walt Disney World – no slouch when it comes to the art and science of tourism – found that vacationers who use short-term rentals spend five times more money during their stay than those who use traditional hotels.
To help educate the public and lobby for responsible regulation and ownership in this growing industry, Ms. Synk and her group Supporting Affordable Vacations for Everyone has developed an informational website at www.savedaytona.org – I encourage everyone to check it out.
Obviously, local governments must retain the right to enact common-sense rules to alleviate nuisance issues and ensure the health, safety and quality of life for all residents – but property owners should be permitted to market short-term rentals in an open and responsible way without oppressive government regulation.
In my view, many local hotel/motel operators are part of the problem.
For years they have refused to reinvest in their product, squeezed profits while paying shit wages for scullery work and allowed their facilities and amenities to deteriorate. While some hoteliers have kept up with the times, many others on Atlantic Avenue and beyond have become little more than fleabags which contribute to the seedy sense of hopelessness that continues to plague revitalization efforts.
And those flophouses that dot Ridgewood Avenue from New Smyrna to Ormond Beach are essentially crime incubators – places that harbor transient drug dealers, prostitution activity and provide an unsafe environment for unfortunate families caught between a week-to-week motel room and homelessness.
In my view, it’s time that our elected and appointed officials come to the realization that we simply must incorporate innovation and alternatives to the status quo.
It is also time for local government to get the hell out of the marketplace.
Why is it so damn difficult for public officials to grasp that when you create an aesthetically pleasing environment with responsible government regulations that encourage entrepreneurial investment and a level playing field, good things happen?
Trust me – the last thing east Volusia cities need to be wasting code enforcement efforts on is vacation rentals. . .
According to John Albright, president and CEO of Consolidated-Tomoka – who’s compensation package demonstrates that he is infinitely smarter than I am – recently said in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “I think it’s an awesome idea to incentivize people to invest in these properties.”
He went on to explain that many successful resort areas throughout Florida – all of which compete with the Halifax area – have embraced short-term rentals as part of their comprehensive tourism and marketing strategy.
“If they can have it, why can’t we? We can start with an area and see how it goes. You could go from Main Street to ISB and around the Ocean Center,” he said.
If any good came from that wheel-spinning exercise that was the Beachside Redevelopment Commission, it’s that our community leaders are beginning to realize that doing the same thing for decades, while expecting a different result, isn’t working out.