St. Augustine commissioners voted Monday night to support changing state law to give more flexibility in how the county spends bed tax dollars.
Senate Bill 658 would allow bed tax dollars to go toward major capital improvements that would last five years or more — things such as transportation, pedestrian facilities and water and sewer systems that are needed “to increase tourist-related business activities,” according to the bill.
A similar House bill would allow bed tax dollars to be used to improve estuaries and lagoons, according to a city document.
St. Johns County’s 4 percent Tourist Development Tax is collected on short-term stays in places such as hotels and motels. The county Tourist Development Council uses the revenue, which was expected to be about $10.4 million in 2017, in large part to promote tourism.
Much of it goes toward advertising and promoting the destination. A portion also goes to other areas, such as special events, beach maintenance and St. Augustine Amphitheatre debt payments.
On Monday, commissioners — with little comment — unanimously adopted several other resolutions opposing or supporting bills filed for the latest session of the Florida Legislature, which begins today.
“I will be traveling to Tallahassee at the end of the month to push all these through,” said Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, who sponsored the resolutions.
The resolutions will also go to the city’s legislative delegation in Tallahassee and other officials.
A big topic for the city is short-term vacation rentals.
Under current law, local governments can’t ban vacation rentals and can’t regulate how often they’re rented or how long people stay. Rules that were in place before June 1, 2011, were exempt from that law.
Commissioners adopted a resolution to support House Bill 789, which would require people running vacation rentals to display a certificate of registration in each rental listing or ad for the property, according to a city document.
Senate Bill 1060, which the commission didn’t take a stance on at the meeting, provides for further regulations such as regular inspections of vacation rentals.
Commissioners adopted a resolution opposing House Bill 773, which would require regulations that apply to vacation rentals be applied to all residential properties.
Commissioners also learned of a Senate Bill filed last week that City Attorney Isabelle Lopez said would destroy the city’s pre-2011 regulations.
The city requires rentals to be at least one week in residential single-family zoning and at least one month in the Historic Preservation-1 zoning category.
“It would completely strip them away,” Lopez said.
Sikes-Kline asked for Lopez to bring a resolution opposing that bill back to the commission.
Lawmakers are also seeking tweaks to community redevelopment agencies, which use increases in property tax revenue to fund improvements in designated areas. The city has two CRAs, one in Lincolnville to help reduce blight, and another that the city uses to help pay for parking garage debt.
Commissioners opposed House Bill 17 and Senate Bill 432, which would add more requirements for CRAs. The house bill would allow for CRAs to be phased out and would allow new CRAs to be created after Oct. 1 only by a special act of the Legislature, according to a city document.
Commissioners also adopted a resolution to support House Bill 6041. The bill would, among other things, delete a law that allows the Division of Historical Resources to implement a program that allows historic artifacts found in state-owned river bottoms to be kept by people who discover them if they share certain information with the state.