Winter Park Town Council rejects proposed bedroom fee for short-term rentals

Fee would be insufficient for funding town's affordable housing goals

Charley Sutherland
Special for Sky-Hi News
Winter Park Town Hall sits under a sunny sky.
Robert Mendoza /Archive photo

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Joe McGlinchy and Jeremy Henn, and to clarify McGlinchy’s public comment.

The town council rejected ordinance 605, the proposal to add a bedroom fee for short-term rentals, on the basis that the $400 per bedroom fee is insufficient in funding affordable housing. The council directed town staff to gather more data and raise the fee before it is presented for approval at its meeting on June 20.

The town’s short-term rental advisory committee, which studied the effects of short-term rentals on the local economy and similar measures taken by other resort communities, determined the $400 per bedroom fee.

The $400 short-term rental registration fee would have raised $812,000 for the town’s affordable housing fund. The town needs approximately $3 million to achieve its affordable housing goals.

In addition to the short-term rental registration fee, the town plans on pursuing an increased lodging tax, which is a tax on hotel visitors, to cover the remaining funds necessary to achieve the town’s affordable housing goals.

Town council opened ordinance 605 to a public hearing. Short-term rental owners and permanent residents in attendance offered both criticism of the ordinance and messages of support.

Kathleen Mallow, a short-term rental owner, emphasized the benefit that short-term rentals provide Winter Park.

 “The owners of rental units are being penalized for raising the economy of the town. More visitors (means) more spending,” Mallow said.

Bill Mustard, a Winter Park permanent resident, stressed the importance of sufficiently funding affordable housing and doing so quickly. Additionally, Mustard commented on the consequences of short-term renters.

Mustard explained, renters of short-term units “undoubtedly add to our costs with poor behavior, lousy parking, garbage disposal and noise.”

Joe McGlinchy, a short-term rental owner expressed support for the ordinance as written.

“Resort towns, like Winter Park, are struggling to staff local businesses if this is a way to help that, we are for it,” McGlinchey said.

However, McGlinchy explained that he thinks the increased fees are a slippery slope and will eventually be passed onto short-term renters, ultimately resulting in less people booking rentals in the area.

The town council closed the public hearing and briefly debated the ordinance. Council member Jeremy Henn stated, “I don’t think a $400 fee is sufficient. I think that number needs to be higher.”

Short-term rental registration fees in other resort communities are significantly higher than the proposed $400 per bedroom fee.

The short-term rental advisory committee chose the $400 fee to avoid deterring short-term rental owners from taking their properties off the rental market.

Because Winter Park has far fewer hotel beds than other resort communities, Winter Park’s tourism economy is more reliant on short-term rentals.

The council discussed striking a balance between adequately addressing affordable housing needs and not deterring short-term rental owners from renting their properties and bringing visitors to Winter Park.

Henn believes the $400 per bedroom fee does too little to cover the affordable housing deficit, and the town will need a higher fee to effectively address affordable housing needs.

Henn recommended the council to “direct town staff to go back and gather more data and come up with a more realistic fee.” The town council agreed with Hann and unanimously rejected the ordinance.

Other business:

  • The town council approved a new protocol for mobile vending permits. Short-term mobile vendors, those operating for no more than 30 days, only need approval from town staff. Whereas, long-term mobile vendors, those operating for more than 30 days, need special use permits, which both the planning commission and the town council review.
  • Council members passed an ordinance that exempts business owners younger than 18 years old from attaining a business license.
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