Should St. Johns County limit short-term rentals?

St. Augustine just approved rules, but Florida Legislature may override local governments

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – People for and against allowing short-term rentals of St. Johns County property spoke out at a workshop Wednesday.

The number of rentals through Airbnb and other online sites have exploded in St. Johns County in recent years and the county is looking to follow the lead of St. Augustine and regulate rentals shorter than seven days.

Some residents said they don’t even know their neighbors anymore because so many properties have been converted into short term rentals and they feel like they’re now living in a commercial district.

“It’s no longer like you live in a residential area,” Scott Stanley said. “The block that I live in, there are 13 homes. There will be eight of those homes (that) are going to be nightly rentals. Most of those have recently been built. They were built without a garage ... built on narrow lots and there’s people in and out of there nightly. I have neighbors that are now selling their homes to get away from this.”

Owners of rental properties said they contribute to the economy and said that the county adding burdensome regulations would hurt the local economy.

Proposed rules would limit the number of people who can stay in a rental unit and set parking restrictions.

Charles Pineda, who operates a short-term rental out of his home, said no owner would rent to more people the property can hold.

“They’re not going to rent to 20 people and you can only fit 10. It’s already essentially restricted in terms of the size of the house,” Pineda said. "People don’t want to damage their home. I don’t know any homeowner who wants to damage their home.”

After the public comment period, the St. Johns County Commission will start discussing the potential regulations and vote on them in the next couple of months.

There are currently two bills pending in the Florida Legislature that would not allow local governments to pass their own regulations on short-term rentals. That would render this process meaningless.