Article Courtesy of Florida
By Dave Berman
Published September 18, 2020
South beaches resident Patricia Fitzgerald made a straightforward request to
county commissioners on Tuesday: Consider changing the county's rules, so she
can operate an Airbnb vacation rental on her property, south of Melbourne Beach.
Minutes after she
spoke, commissioners took the first step that could help
Fitzgerald and others looking to rent out their properties
for the short term to provide a source of extra income.
Commissioners approved what's known as "legislative intent,"
directing county staff to work on rewriting the county rules
regulating what the county terms "resort dwellings" Those
are properties rented primarily to visitors to the county
for a short period of time. The proposal then would come
back to the County Commission for a public hearing and a
If the proposal is approved, it would reduce the
restrictions on such rentals and make the rules less
County Commissioner John Tobia — who is pushing the
initiative — says these short-term rentals can be economic
drivers, by providing a source of income for property owners
like Fitzgerald and giving visitors to the county more
Tobia first brought up the issue in
February. But commissioners chose to wait to see if the
Florida Legislature further addressed the issue of vacation
rentals, and how state legislation might further preempt any
Patricia Fitzgerald says current county rules prevent
her from operating an Airbnb vacation rental on her property, south
of Melbourne Beach.
The Florida Legislature took no action in the 2020 legislative session on
two key bills on this topic, so that put the issue back on the County
Commissioners on Tuesday approved the legislative intent — the first step in
changing the zoning rules — by a 4-1 vote, with Vice Chair Rita Pritchett
Pritchett said she voted against Tobia's proposal because she has received a
number of complaints from residents of her North Brevard commission district
about neighbors renting out residences to tourists.
So she didn't want to ease the county's restrictions on resort dwellings or
Any rule changes the County Commission will consider would apply only in
unincorporated Brevard. The county's 16 cities and towns would continue to
be able to have more stringent rules, as would homeowners' associations
throughout the county.
In a report to county commissioners, the county's Planning and Development
Department describes the current county code language for resort dwellings
"There are currently 54 zoning classifications in unincorporated Brevard
County, spanning eight categories," the report noted. "Allowance of resort
dwellings is dependent upon zoning classification, use, adjacent property
use/zoning and sometimes location with respect to (State Road) A1A. These
criteria determine whether resort dwellings are permitted, permitted with
conditions or require a conditional-use permit."
Further complicating matters are the different state and county terms and
definitions for such accommodations.
The state defines a "vacation rental" as any unit or group of units in a
condominium or cooperative or any individually or collectively owned
single-family, two-family, three-family or four-family house or dwelling
unit that is also a transient public lodging establishment, but that is not
a timeshare project. Transient public lodging establishments are ones rented
to guests more than three times in a calendar year for periods of less than
30 days or which are advertised as a place regularly rented to guests.
The county defines a "resort dwelling" as any single-family dwelling or
multifamily dwelling unit which is rented for periods of less than 90 days
or which is advertised as a place rented for periods of less than 90 days.
Tobia is proposing that the county adopt the state's definition of vacation
rentals. He said that would prevent any issues with the state preempting
other county rules in this area, while ensuring that the county "maximize
the economic opportunities for our citizens."
Brevard County collects a 5% Tourist Development Tax on hotel rooms and
other short-term rentals. About 16% of the tax collections come through
"management companies" such as Airbnb, which will represent about $2 million
in tax revenue to the county for the current budget year that ends Oct. 1.
That, in turn, amounts to about $40 million in revenue to the owners of the
vacation rentals for the current budget year.
Brevard County zoning officials say they get an average of one inquiry a day
about the permissibilily of resort dwellings.
County code enforcement staff gets about one complaint a month related to
this issue — about half of which are substantiated as violations.