Conflict over Vacation Rentals Erupts at City Hall

 

By Bryan Boggiano

Multiple residents spoke out against the city’s current vacation rentals regulations, claiming that the city does not do enough to regulate the properties.

Residents aired their grievances at their Wednesday meeting at City Hall, imploring their elected officials to do more to keep neighborhoods clean and safe.

Coral Hills resident Laurence Kaldor, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Coral Hills, said vacation rentals make city streets less safe, bring trash and noise into neighborhoods, replace single-family residences, and lead to decreased property values.

He also spoke out against vacation rentals located near sober houses. Kaldor alleges vacation-rental parties in his neighborhood, with security personnel and partygoers smoking marijuana on the driveway.

“This is not the kind of behavior that I want next to my house,” he said.

Kaldor, who believes the city is not doing enough to address vacation rentals, said possible solutions are banning or restricting them and strictly enforcing existing rules.

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Kaldor was not alone in his convictions.

Neda Kiani, who aired similar frustrations, said her neighborhood in Running Brook Hills is no longer safe due to the rental properties.

For her, the issue is personal. She told commissioners that Coral Springs is the first place that truly felt like home to her since she moved to the United States from the Middle East.

She loved everything about the city, but now, Kiani said she no longer lets her daughter ride her bike with her friends, saying that the neighborhood is unsafe. From daily conversations she has with neighbors, they feel the same way.

“I never thought in a million years that I would be standing here talking about safety,” she said. “[We ] pay a lot in taxes, we pay a lot of money to be able to live somewhere safe, and we’re not feeling safe.”

Kiani said investors are purchasing properties on her block, turning them into short-term rental properties. Some of them are next to or across from sober houses.

She alleges that this is degrading the neighborhood’s value since outsiders are coming in who may not have the same regard for the community or city.

“Coral Springs is not a vacation town; it’s not a beach town, it’s not Disney World,” she said.

In response to both speakers asking the city commission to do their jobs, Vice Mayor Joshua Simmons said the city commission had worked tirelessly for three years to call and lobby state politicians to gain more control to regulate vacation rentals.

Last June, the commission voted on some regulations by establishing registration fees, licensing requirements, and guidelines; however, state law prohibits cities from banning vacation rentals or regulating their frequency or duration.

“We are fighting like hell to make sure we protect our neighbors, protect our streets, and protect our homes, and protect the culture that makes this Coral Springs.”

Vice Mayor Simmons agreed that the safety of children is a top priority.

“What we’re trying to make sure is that your children, my children…my one and two-year-old, are safe as well in this city.”

City Commissioner Nancy Metayer pointed to the city’s legislative action agenda, which emphasizes support for local regulation of vacation rentals. She empathizes with residents, saying that there are vacation rental properties in her neighborhood.

If the city enacted an ordinance against state law, they could face a lawsuit, costing residents money. She encouraged residents to reach out to their elected officials.

“When we look at all the power that’s being taken away from local government, it’s embarrassing,” she said. “It is very disheartening when we are trying to do good by our communities, and we can’t.”

Commissioner Shawn Cerra spoke about the importance of keeping his wife and three children safe. He encouraged residents to write letters to him, saying there’s power in numbers.

Commissioner Joy Carter gave a more blunt response. After repetitively calling an unnamed state senator’s office, she got a reply saying, “Stop calling, we heard you!”

She said it was the sweetest thing she had heard.

Mayor Scott Brook echoed these sentiments, urging residents to call officials throughout the state to pass laws allowing local governments to have more authority over vacation rentals.

City Attorney John Hearn emphasized that the city is working with police, Julie Krolak, director of developmental services, and City Manager Frank Babinec to update and enforce the current regulations.

Hearn added that updated regulations such as occupancy limits could come to the city commission by February.

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Bryan Boggiano
A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan is pursuing his masters in geosciences at Florida International University. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.

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