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County approves vacation rental law

May 20, 2020
Nathan Mayberg (Nmayberg@breezenewspapers.com) , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The Lee County Board of County Commissioners approved a plan put forward by County Manager Roger Desjarlais Tuesday which will allow short-term vacation rentals to resume on Fort Myers Beach. The plan was approved by the state Wednesday, and will take effect through June 18.

The county's policy restricts vacation rentals to Florida residents while also barring the use of the premises to those who are "traveling internationally or from a state or locality with a substantial community spread of COVID-19." That includes Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County and Broward County, according to Lee County Government spokesperson Betsy Clayton. In a statement issued by Clayton, the county is still seeking guidance from the state on the residency requirement.

Under the proposal approved by the commissioners Tuesday, vacation rental property owners and managers are required to follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting their facilities between uses.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis originally banned short-term vacation rentals of less than 30 days back in March. The Town of Fort Myers Beach Council voted to lift that ban on May 15, though that was contingent on the governor lifting his own ban. An executive order issued by DeSantis on Friday allows counties to resume vacation rentals if they present safety plans which are approved by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Lee County Commissioner Ray Sandelli said the board's intent was "to get something in for approval as soon as we could." The board could opt to renew the measure again in 30 days or change it depending on whether DeSantis issues a new executive order by that time.

According to Desjarlais, the county is waiting on approval from the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation on the proposal he submitted. He is confident the proposal will be approved based on discussions he had with the office.

At Monday's meeting of the Fort Myers Beach Council, Councilmember Billy Veach found part of the plan contradictory and too vague. Veach was concerned about not enough time being allowed in between the uses of facilities, which he worried could lead to an increase in the spread of infections. He criticized the law for not specifying further how the properties should be cleaned between uses.

Councilmember Rexann Hosafros wondered if it was fair for the town council to regulate short-term rentals more than hotels. Councilmember Dan Allers said the town shouldn't put any more stringent rules on rentals and said the town should follow the state's lead.

At a press conference in Jacksonville on Friday discussing short-term vacation rentals, DeSantis discussed his outlook on short-term vacation rentals. "If you tell me you are going to rent them out to people from New York City, I'm probably not going to approve that OK? If you are saying you are going to rent it out to people in other parts of Florida or something that would be manageable or if there are ways in there to clearly (protect) safety than I would be fine."

DeSantis said some parts of Florida have been more affected than others. "It's going to be on a case-by-case basis," he said.

"We want to make sure we are being very cautious," DeSantis said.

 
 

 

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