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Vacation Rentals in St. Augustine Beach - Cause for Concern?


The vacation rental business, as in other areas, has been booming in St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach. A quick search on Airbnb shows an abundance of offerings in both cities.

Vacation rentals in St. Augustine Beach have steadily increased since 2013, and now more than 80 vacation rentals occupy the nearly 2 square mile city.

While the business is a boon for some, some residents have voiced concerns about dealing with demands on parking and other issues associated with the rentals.

Peter Wayte, a St. Augustine Beach resident, said he’s troubled by the number of people allowed to stay at vacation rentals and the number of cars allowed to park at one place.

He said he’s OK with renters, just not in large numbers at one house.

“It’s when the population explodes — that’s the problem,” he said.

St. Augustine Beach had more than 20 “transient lodging facilities” (less than one month or 30 days rental) in fiscal year 2013, according to city business tax receipt records. That has increased to more than 80 that registered with the city in the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

“It’s obviously a very popular means of property use, because … I live two blocks from the ocean and even the house next to me is a vacation rental,” City Manager Max Royle said.

The city’s land development regulations allow up to 100 transient lodging facilities in medium density land use district (hotels, motels and similar businesses excluded). Property owners have to register them with the city, and property owners are responsible for making sure guests abide by city codes, according to the city’s regulations. Inspections are also required.

“We have a limit of 100 vacation rentals. … It’s sort of first-come, first-served,” Royle said.

Vice Mayor Undine George said she has received complaints from residents about vacation rentals, and has witnessed the impact on parking.

“I think the biggest complaint I get from citizens is [why do] our zoning laws and our definitions of use allow the activity of short-term rentals, which most people consider a commercial activity, to take place inside … a single-family residential structure,” she said.

Two people over 15 years old are allowed per bedroom, and an additional two people for one sleeper sofa per floor of the residence, according to city regulations. Parking is restricted to the site of the rental and the number of spaces provided on the site. Overflow parking goes to public parking spaces.

As far as adding additional regulations, the city is limited.

State law prohibits local governments from banning vacation rentals and or regulating how often they’re rented or how long people stay. Rules that were in place before June 1, 2011, were exempted from that law.

Craig Thomson, a beach tree advisory board member, wrote in an email to The Record that he and his friends are most concerned about zoning matters, such as reduced setbacks allowed by the city.

“Many of the larger houses currently being built are intended for short term rental purposes,” according to Thomson. “This process/purpose is changing the character and livability of our established family oriented neighborhoods.”

The demand for vacation rentals has been noticed by Frank O’Rourke, broker for St. Augustine Real Estate Company. He said the demand now for people buying investment properties solely as a means to generate income, such as through short-term rentals, is as strong now as it has ever been. He’s sold a number of those in St. Augustine Beach, he said.

While he hears some complaints about vacation rentals in the area, they don’t come often.

“I’ve lived in St. Augustine Beach for over 30 plus years,” O’Rourke said. “There’s always been a mix of rentals and permanent homeowners … so you kind of bought in with that mentality early.”