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Posted on: February 6, 2020

City officials going to Tallahassee to fight for local control

5 people standing in front of a fountain with Flagler College building behind

Preservation of Home Rule and local governance is critical

On Tuesday, February 11, senior city staff and elected officials will go to Tallahassee to testify before the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee  to uphold Home Rule, respect local decision makers and their constituents, and encourage flexible local solutions to address each of Florida’s hundreds of unique local communities.

The legislature is currently considering new regulations, including HB 1011 and SB 1128 that would virtually strip all power from local governments to regulate the short-term vacation rental industry. These proposed bills are examples of state preemption that transfers authority from local governments and replaces it with top-down, overbroad, uniform control based in Tallahassee which applies universally and across the entire state for disparate communities such as Destin, Orlando, Miami and St. Augustine.

“The City of St. Augustine is not opposed to short-term vacation rentals and clearly recognizes that this form of hospitality offers many benefits,” noted Mayor Tracy Upchurch. “However, the city believes retaining and strengthening Home Rule will allow us a way forward to best harmonize short-term vacation rentals with long term neighbors.  We oppose these bills and respectfully urge the legislature to restore local government flexibility and control over local zoning.”

The City Commission recently passed local ordinances to balance this growth of short-term vacation rentals with the needs of our permanent residents.  One ordinance (Ordinance 2019‐50) provides regulation of short-term vacation rentals, including such things as registration, annual inspection, intensity of use, and other components, including penalties for violations. 

Unfortunately, our city commission’s ability to create the best ordinance is limited by state laws that have handicapped local governments across the state from enacting the comprehensive ordinances that make the most sense for the residents of their communities. 

As the Nation’s Oldest City, the City of St. Augustine, has maintained its historic status as the longest continuously occupied European city in the United States, in large part because it has always been a living city and not a gated community, private entertainment complex, or vacation resort.  The City’s commitment to its authenticity and livability was formally adopted in its 2014 Vision Plan.  But with the explosive growth of short-term vacation rentals in our city, the livability of many of St. Augustine’s neighborhoods is threatened.

We are asking the community to please write the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee members listed below and let your voice be heard in favor of Home Rule and against state preemption.

The preservation of Home Rule and local governance is critical to our ability to protect the livability our treasured city.  We appreciate your help in sending a clear, united message to the legislature on this important issue facing both our local community and the state of Florida.

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