Thirty-seven years ago, my parents visited their friends, Rufus and Lorraine Yount, who lived in a mobile home park in Cortez. They were also from northern Michigan, but much earlier retirees than my parents, and they were already settled full time in their Florida lifestyle of relaxing, fishing and enjoying this beautiful area.
My parents were hooked. Even though their work only allotted them a one-week visit every year, they gradually, through the years, were able to come for three weeks at a time, and then after retirement, they spent five months every winter, renting on the beautiful north end of Anna Maria Island. They had stories about the real estate agents they with whom they first worked. They and their friends would arrive for the winter, and one couple had to be moved, their place was so dingy. They would entertain themselves by going to garage sales for the first several weeks to try and outfit their places, which were lacking many of the cookware and amenities (such as lamps, a radio, etc.) that my parents’ home and their friends’ homes were equipped with. Dishes were mismatched, but they made do . . . and they had a ball doing it.
Rent was cheap back then. All of their friends could afford to come down and spend the entire winter, and they were sparing about how many times they would go out to dinner, cooking at home most of the time. If they did go out, they’d meet at each other’s places for cocktails first to help on the bar bill.
I used to love coming to visit my parents on my spring breaks. I remember gathering with all of their friends at Fast Eddies, and my mom and I would wander over to the beach at Bean Point, where no houses had yet been built.
But all that changed . . . gradually at first. More and more of their friends couldn’t afford the new higher rental prices. But now, that change is no longer gradual. With the advent of the internet, AMI has been discovered, and it has exploded. Rentals that were once lazy havens for retirees are now small money machines for owners who can rent year round to people from all over the world.
The city of Anna Maria has felt the onslaught and has now called for a moratorium on building, albeit a little too late. The main focus of the halt is to curtail the advent of the 4-, 5-, 6-, 7- and 8-bedroom houses that are being built to accommodate multiple families and the larger incomes that these rentals can command. Rental rates for 8-bedroom houses can command upward of $8,000 weekly, so it is no surprise that developers/builders want to maximize their space and income/return.
As Anna Maria’s city commission debates the issue, Commissioner Dale Woodland is one who said he wants to make it illegal to rent a house to more than one family. Nothing has been decided yet, and as of this week’s press time, it has been reported that the moratorium will be in effect until “they find an answer,” as City Attorney Jim Dye says. Stay tuned!