The proposal would cap occupancy and parking for short-term rentals in Wellington.

WELLINGTON — Vacation rentals could face occupancy and parking restrictions under new rules poised for approval by the Village Council.

A final decision on the rules could be made at Tuesday night’s council meeting — scheduled just a few days after Airbnb on Thursday announced it no longer will allow parties and it will limit occupants to 16, as the coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on large gatherings at vacation rentals.

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The council voted unanimously Aug. 11 to give initial approval to the rules.

If approved Tuesday night, the approach would not clash with a state law that prohibits local governments from restricting the duration or location of short-term rentals, Wellington officials said.

Wellington has had issues in the past few years with vacation rental properties being used to host large, raucous parties, officials said.

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One party in June 2019 generated headlines when hundreds of teens packed into an Airbnb on Anhinga Drive, prompting a response from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office that sent attendees scrambling into neighbors’ yards. A neighbor at the time said there had been several large gatherings at the home, which they called “the party house.”

More recently, Wellington received several complaints about parties at vacation rentals during the pandemic. Vacation rentals have not been allowed in Palm Beach County since March. A local emergency order adopted by the county on Friday allows them to reopen.

In Wellington, any rental property that offers stays shorter than 30 days is considered a short-term or vacation rental. The two terms are used by the village interchangeably.

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Under the proposal, vacation rentals in Wellington would be allowed to have two people per bedroom, not including children age 3 or younger, at one time.

The version to be considered Tuesday also would restrict overnight parking to one vehicle per bedroom with four vehicles maximum, not including vehicles in garages. Vacation rentals that have more than four bedrooms and are on an acre or more can have one additional vehicle.

Any vehicles parked outside of the garage would need to be on a driveway, parking apron or other designated, hard-surfaced parking area.

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That is a change from earlier drafts, which called for parking restrictions based solely on the number of bedrooms.

But council members said that could be too strict when it comes to some of the massive equestrian properties that offer short-term rental options during the competition season.

Many of the other items already are in Wellington’s rules and apply to all residential properties, including vacation rentals, staff said. That includes following all local and state safety and public nuisance laws.

The new rules would require vacation rental owners to have a designated person, or property management company, to be the point of contact for the village.

Wellington also would require vacation rental owners to check to see if potential renters are on the sex offender registry, which can be checked for free on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website. If the property is within 2,500 feet of a school, school bus stop or park, it would be a violation of Wellington’s code and Florida law to rent to anyone on the registry.

The village would continue to require business tax receipts for short-term rentals.

At an Aug. 11 meeting, two opponents offered comments.

One person, who said he is an Airbnb “superhost” — an elite level on the vacation rental platform — said he does not understand why the village would get involved in regulating the industry.

Another said that the village should not require vacation rental owners to check the sex offender registry.

“These things that we are putting under this ordinance already exist, so it’s not like we’re creating something more restrictive or new,” Vice Mayor Tanya Siskind said.

Some local governments in Florida have shied away from enacting rules for vacation rentals, saying the state government has preempted their ability to put such rules in place.

But Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said she was confident Wellington’s proposed rules would not clash with state law.

“I think we’re within a safe regulatory zone here,” she told the council at an Aug. 10 agenda workshop.

Before heading to the council, the village’s Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rules.

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