City Manager Defends Amnesty Program for Hundreds of Illegal Transient Rentals by Claiming it’s Not Happening

jim scholl
City Manager, Jim Scholl

Commentary by Arnaud and Naja Girard……..

Four thousand dollars a week is not unusual for the rental of a house in Old Town – as long as you can rent to tourists – that is.

Last Wednesday on US 1 Radio’s Morning Magazine, City Manager Jim Scholl went on the defensive amidst accusations that the City has been rewarding illegal transient rental operators.

In a story published last week in The Blue Paper we revealed that in 2013 the City had changed the grandfathered-in date in its Lawful Unit Determination (LUD) ordinance from 1990 (before transient rentals became highly regulated and before every new unit had to be authorized through the Rate of Growth Ordinance) to 2010 (decades after ROGO and long after it became criminal to rent for less than 30 days without a special license).  This hush-hush amnesty program opened up the flood gates, rewarding cheaters and losing, forever, the opportunity for code enforcement to restore those illegal transient units back to the badly depleted residential housing stock.

Mr. Scholl claimed, during his interview with Bill Becker, that the legalization doesn’t worsen the current housing crisis, “Most of those units are being rented out as longer-term rentals,” he said. That claim is clearly contradicted by the applications filed with the City ‘s Planning Department under the new LUD ordinance.  Our count was 44 long-term residential units and 151 illegal transient units applying to be legalized [list as of April 2016].

Mr. Scholl also claimed that only those units that already have transient licenses are being legalized as transient rental units under the ordinance. However, Mr. Scholl himself was sitting at the March 16, 2016 Board of Adjustment hearing where 5 illegal transient units were legalized in connection with the Mermaid and the Alligator Guesthouse on Truman Avenue.  The application and protracted discussion clearly showed that none of the 5 units had ever been licensed for transient rental use.  All were long-term housing that had been illegally transformed into transient rental use and transient rental use was actually prohibited under their zoning designations.

In 1998 the Key West Inn Keeper’s Association conducted a confidential survey to determine how many transient units were being rented by local guesthouses in Key West – both legal and illegal.  The number of illegal units was 239 but that included only those rented by owners who were willing to respond to the compromising question. There can be little doubt that the number must be much greater today.  In light of the current housing crisis, the goal should clearly be to find those illegal transient units and turn them into long-term rentals. The amended LUD ordinance does the opposite.

To be clear: If a property owner created extra units without permits or was renting his house or his residential apartments to tourists on or before April 1, 2010 then, under current City law (as interpreted by top officials), he has the right to have his illegal transient units legalized.

The LUD applications paint a sobering view of the City’s fight for affordable residential housing. Transient rentals have been spreading like a cancer.  They expand by capturing the house next door, the house on the right, on the left, at the back or even across the street. Residences are divided into hotel rooms, most of the time without building permits or proper zoning, density or licenses. When the deed is done and the City has legalized the many civil and criminal violations, the property is often sold on the market with millions of dollars in added profit.

How many well-connected property owners are now creating new illegal transient rentals, keeping in the back of their minds the hope that in a not so distant future the City will once again move up the date for grandfathering-in their illegal business?

Please share your thoughts below…

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11 thoughts on “City Manager Defends Amnesty Program for Hundreds of Illegal Transient Rentals by Claiming it’s Not Happening

  1. Mr. Scholl is the manager not the law-maker, those law makers have another two years via the voters – so blame yourself voters and non voters, no one else!
    Be ready for the ride of your Key West life.

    Now let’s talk about something important like clean streets, safe/clean sidewalks and side walks clear of trees/bushes. Now that the city manager has control of !

    Why is our commissioners not cleaning up their Districts ?
    Key West looks like RED-NECK heaven and is attracting that level.
    Ops, forgot we where listed as southern most red-neck city, last year…

    GOD, I really love this town.

  2. It’s fortunate that the City of Key West electorate voted back Mayor Cates, Commissioner Lopez and all of the other unopposed incumbents. There will finally be a positive change in direction, and these insider, Bubba deals will come to an end.

    1. Colby, however remote, the mayor’s race is not yet officially over. I’m on the Nov 8 ballot as a write-in mayor candidate. Actually, what’s on the ballot is an oval and a blank space beside “write-in”. Anyone wishing to vote for me colors in the oval and writes “Sloan Bashinsky” in the blank space. Joyce Griffin, our Supervisor of Elections, told me her computer program will pick that up.

      Todd German, Chairman of Hometown PAC, told me that Mayor Craig Cates said at his victory party that he will not attend any candidate forums leading up to the Nov. 8 general election. As a result, Todd told me, there will not be a mayor candidate segment in Hometown’s candidate forum. I will be given a few minutes to talk, instead.

      I proposed instead that Hometown stick to its original plan. Invite Mayor Cates, and if he shows up, Hometown’s hand-picked panelists grill both Mayor Cates and me. But if Mayor Cates does not show up, then the panelists grill just me. Todd said that was not going to happen. I said it’s a fair alternative, and if Mayor Cates does not show up, it’s not unfair to him; it’s what he chose. Todd said Mayor Cates has nothing to gain and something to lose by participating. I said, yes, he will not like what I say. And if Hometown does not go with my alternative, it will look like Hometown is in Mayor Cates’ pocket. Not true, Todd said. It will look that way nonetheless, I said. And, if Hometown does not go with my alternative, it should tell the audience at its candidate forum, before I speak, that Mayor Cates declined to participate, and that I offered an alternative, and what it was, and Hometown turned me down. Todd said would be fair.

      It you are interested in my “platform”, or some of it, here’s a link to what I published yesterday:

      I publish something fresh there daily, usually (but not always) up by noon. Running behind today.

      And here are links to the Sloan for Mayor Facebook page, and the Sloan for Mayor Facebook discussion group:

      1. Sloan Bashinsky – is this one of those deals where you have to write the proper/name as shown on your paperwork at elections…
        1. Proper Capitals, proper spacing, print only?
        2. Full name – What is your full/correct name for the ballot?
        3. If it is 50/50 – who flips the coin?
        I do not believe the ballots can be read on machine other
        than some scratch on the paper, cancelling the vote.

        Everyone vote for Sloan and see what numbers come up —–
        Plus Sloan would be a good mayor changing the 4 to 3 from
        Bubbas to the people. Sloan will keep it honest!!
        Be more fun going to the City meetings also….

        1. Page, thanks for wishing me to go to hell without passing go. Honestly ain’t necessary a welcome blessing. Far more than any blue paper reader I know of, you have seen and heard me many times speak multiple times at city commission meetings.

          I hate it when the angels are honest with me about my less than wonderfulness. They are into honesty, though; and they very much want to see change happen in Key West, and everywhere, actually. Key West is kinda like a soul proxy for everywhere else on this planet, given how diverse is Key West’s population; sort of like the US president race this year is kinda a soul proxy for everywhere in America.

          Who knows what bubba or bubbette kinks might spring forth if people voted for me but did not spell my name word perfect?

          I’m pretty sure the law is, if it’s clear who is being written in, than that’s good enough. And the voter also has to color in the oval beside where they write in my name. The Supervisor of Elections told me her computer will see the colored in oval and separate that ballot from the non-write in ballots, and they will be counted separately, by the computer I understood.

          1. Thanks, I figured there had to be more!
            Your always on top of the real truth.
            Hope 3,000+ voters, read it and understand the game so you have a fair chance to get the 51% – an honest win.
            God Speed

  3. I apologize Sloan. You certainly do have as much chance in winning the Mayoral race this time around as you have had in any of your other previous attempts.

    1. Here’s the deal, Colby. I imagine there are enough blue paper fans in Key West, who vote here, who are fed up with how the city is run, who at least could give me enough votes to get Mayor Cates’ and the rest of the establishment’s attention, even if I did not win. Randy Becker and Ed Krane Karsh did not come close to causing that fright in the primary.

      I happen to be a candidate who actually knows a great deal about what is going on and who has been deeply involved in city politics, and in county politics, for longer than anyone on the city commission but Jimmy Weekley, who has far more years invested in that than I do. I keep reading people like you bitching and bitching for change in the city government. But I’m a bit too much change for most of the change-bitchers.

      But, Colby, if you, for example really do want change, then you would be doing all you can to get me votes on Nov. 8. Same for every other blue paper reader who is fed up with the city government.

      If I were mayor, I would be giving state of the city reports every morning at No prisoners taken, and credit gladly given where it is due. Frightening. I would be proposing changes that really are changes. Frightening.

      I’ll tell how frightening I am, how dangerous. For many months I have been living in Naja and Arnaud’s home, because I could not afford a place of my own. Mingling with them, and with their children, who have become for me like my own blood relations. Family.

      When Naja and Arnaud asked me if I really wanted to be mayor, I said hell no, I’d be insane to really want to be mayor. But here I am on the November ballot, because real live sho nuff angels told me to be on the ballot, and if that’s a problem for you Colby, you are at the end of a very l-o-n-g line of like-minded people, many of whom attend church regularly, and many do not.

      How many times have I heard Arnaud and Naja say this week is the last week for the blue paper, they are quitting? I lost count long ago of how many times I heard them say that. Blood, sweat and tears, theirs, they pour into the blue paper each week, I personally see the pouring, and hear it, and feel it in my soul, and they are making a skimpy profit, which nobody else I know would accept as fair wage for the terribly long hours and hard work they do to bring out the blue paper every week. If the people of this city reward Arnaud and Naja in that stingy way, for trying their darndest to make this a better place to live, what’s the point? Why bitch? Why not just ignore the city government, stop bitching about it, and do something else?

  4. From above:
    ” Colby says:
    September 2, 2016 at 12:08 pm
    It’s fortunate that the City of Key West electorate voted back Mayor Cates, Commissioner Lopez and all of the other unopposed incumbents. There will finally be a positive change in direction, and these insider, Bubba deals will come to an end.”
    ******************!!!!! ?????
    I assume you are joking thinking that things will get better with the same old crew on board. The stuff they have allowed , or outright finnegaled is beyond the pale of good governance. Those three commissioners, city manager and city planner have totally screwed us for years.

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