By Cindy Jackson
May 19, 2020
With the official start of tourist season commencing this weekend as part of the Memorial Day holiday, the rush was on to “reopen” short-term rentals here on Amelia Island. While hotels across the State were allowed to remain open through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, short-term vacation rentals were banned from hosting guests. Consequently, a several lawsuits were filed against the Governor citing discrimination and the deprivation of constitutional rights.
And then, on Friday, May 15th, to the delight of property owners and management companies across the State, the Governor announced that short-term rentals could once again open their doors – but if and only if, the State gives their stamp of approval to be obtained through the Department of Business and Public Regulation (DBPR).
To that end, a special meeting of the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council board was called to order on the morning of Tuesday, May 19, 2020. With a quorum in “virtual” attendance, that board approved a plan that will be send to Tallahassee later today in an attempt to expedite the process so that short term rentals won’t miss out on this weekend – one of the busiest and most profitable weekends for the tourism industry. The plan is to receive the approval of the Board of County Commissioners at their next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 20, 2020 after which an Executive Order (EO) will be put in place outlining the process with which short term rentals must comply.
In a May 16 memo from Gil Langley, President and CEO of the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council to Mike Mullin, County Manager and County Attorney, he wrote, “As with many destinations in Florida, Vacation Home Rentals provide a valuable, unique experience that contributes to a vibrant economy. Although most are small businesses, they actually provide more room inventory and more taxable sales than traditional resorts and hotels.” That memo contained this chart:
FY 2019 Taxable Sales By Type
- Room Totals Vary by Sources Since Categories Are Self-Declared
Langley went on to say, “it is in the interests of Nassau County to develop and implement a process that allow the opening of VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) properties as soon as practical without compromising the health and safety of Nassau County residents, visitors from across the country and those . . . seeking respite from substantial community spread.”
To that end, the plan that was approved by the AICVB and which will hopefully be approved by the State requires, among other things:
- An occupancy cap of ten persons
- Special guest screening requirements
- Social distancing (6 feet) in outside areas
- Staffing guidelines
- Stringent cleaning requirements
A copy of the plan is located here.
Daniel Leeper, County Commissioner and Board Chair of the Amelia Island Tourism Development Council, expressed his desire that the plan adopted by the County remain fluid to allow for amendments should changes so warrant.