In the beginning it seemed like a cool idea, you could rent out a room in your house for some extra cash here and there. Then it turned into a full on residential hotel business operated by corporations. We are experiencing a flood of vacation rentals such as Airbnb and Vrbo with over 1106 vacation rental properties in the city alone. These rentals are required to register with the city but only around 80 have done so. If we can realistically enforce a yearly registration fee of $500 per rental, we would generate an extra $500,000.00 a year in added revenue. This could be used toward Paying down debt, restoring our trash/ brush service, or adding police and fire personnel. Higher fees would deter bad actors from exploiting vacation rentals, it would also keep them from homesteading which will add more tax revenue for the city. Airbnb homes cause increased prices for long term renters. They use more of our police resources and intrude on their neighbors' privacy. It only makes sense they pay more.
On the other hand, if you own an air bnb, this might not be all bad news. If you have an Airbnb and are responsible, they are usually maintained very well and have no or few complaints. Maybe a reward program discounting the next year registration would be possible for a property with no complaints. It's an idea that could incentivise good behavior. In all reality, an investor will not see a loss in revenue. With fewer vacation rentals, you will have LESS COMPETITION. Other vacation rentals will RAISE PRICES to offset the costs. If everyone is raising their rental rates to offset registration costs, so can you
Electric bikes need to slow down for pedestrians and they startle people that aren't expecting them. Our number one goal for implementing new laws should be to preserve life and prevent injury. In my quest for finding solutions I consulted with the chief of police, I have received some data from FDOT that could aid in finding the solution. The injury rate in Cocoa Beach for pedestrians and electric bikes on the sidewalk is nearly non existent. There is not enough data to to justify putting a 13-18mph electric vehicle on the road with 45mph traffic. From the file I received, I asked the Police Chief, of the 100+ bicycle, electric bicycle, and pedestrian deaths or injuries in the last 3 years, how many of those were on the sidewalk, he said "I can't recall even one, It's very rare". Close calls and potential injuries can't over rule hard facts. It is proven, electric bikes and scooters are more dangerous on the road then the sidewalk. I have proposed to our current commissioners, a city registration for electric bikes and scooters. When registering they will receive guidelines on proper sidewalk use. I also proposed signs on sidewalks in problem areas and near the schools that say "Pedestrians have the right of way, wheeled vehicles must slow down for foot traffic".
Electric scooters and bicycles can be very good for the community if used responsibly. Many tourist rent them instead of uber or lift. Many kids use them to go to school. Many older people that don't have the energy to ride a bike now can, and many residents use them to get around town... Myself included. They are economical, they are easy to use, they cut down on our carbon footprint and my favorite, they cut down on traffic. Let's figure out a way to get the offenders to adhere to basic safety rules rather then have a few bad apples ruin the whole bunch. Electric is the future, we can't just outlaw technology because we are to lazy to figure out a solution.
I have lived here my entire life, I like my small home town feel. It is my wish that Cocoa Beach could stay the same small town I grew up in, but growth is also important for our economy. It is important to manage our growth by investigating every variance on a case by case basis to make sure it meets a hardship as well as enhances the community. An example, of a request would be if someone had a residential property they could legally build 45 foot tall, 20 units(2 acres) with no variance. This property owner needed to build out most of the property to the property set backs to fit their 20 units and a concrete parking lot that would take up the rest of the property. It would be in an area where all the other buildings are 85-90 feet tall. Keep in mind as a height reference, the picture above is Xanadu condos 183 feet tall and is beside a building just under 70 feet tall. In my opinion if a variance was requested (70 feet or less), it met a hardship and they wanted to add under building parking for hurricane wash through protection as well as having more green space, I'd be ok with that. If they could only have 8 foot ceilings and wanted to have 10 foot ceilings for a more modern look, I'm ok with that. If they needed A facade on the roof to cover the air conditioning and other roof top utilities, I'm OK with that. So if a building was being built with NO extra density but wanted more green space and a more modern feel I think it is better then building out the whole property with concrete. That property in its current state would be taxed at $700,000, improved could be $20,000,000. This would bring in more tax revenue for the city to keep taxes lower. The city is nearly $45,000,000 in debt and rising every year. We pay around $2,000,000 for debt services alone per year. We cant continue to spend like this, and we can't pay it back unless we increase revenue for the city.
Cocoa Beach has a generally unkeept feel to it, and honestly it has always been like that. There are places like this all over the city and it gives visitors and residents an overall poor perspective of the city. The problem is this is all people see. They don't see how much work goes on behind the scenes. So it is almost more important to take care of what is seen, then what goes on internally. It will build more confidence with the residents if the government can take care of the little stuff because it shows they must have the big stuff under control. We should have a person walking through on a regular basis to keep maintenance accountable. We don't need more money to take care of this problem, we just need more attention to detail when our vendors or employees do their jobs.
I feel I should preface this next idea by explaining there is good debt, and bad debt. The difference between good debt and bad debt is that good debt will make you money and bad debt will cost you money. Currently the city is in extensive debt with a portion being good debt. At this point, there is no way we could pay off our debt with our spending pattern and our current sources of revenue. For a couple years now, I have been proposing a city marina to help lower taxes and bring in some added revenue. One of the ways we currently get revenue is through parking. A new parking garage is being proposed behind the fire department at $30,000.00 per parking space costing the city nearly $6,000,000.00, and currently making $20 per space per day. Granted, this would be good debt but this will bring in more day tourists that have no respect for our city and honestly i do not think it will enhance the look of the downtown area. A city marina could yield $150 per day per slip. In conclusion this project has the potential to make the city hundreds of thousands a year in revenue without negatively impacting the residents. We could put a city marina at the east end of the golf course and it would also help subsidise the losses accrued by the County Club each year. It's a great revenue producer for the city and It brings in a quality crowd with money. You won't find a marina in the area with open slips because they are all full. It won't negatively impact the residents with trashy tourists or loud music. It would be away from residential properties, It won't create a noticeable difference with city traffic because most will be traveling by boat. It's close to the river so boats won't have to travel through residential canals to get to it. And it will enhance the view and perception of the city. We are a city surrounded by water yet we do nothing to promote our biggest asset.
The lagoon is looking the best it has looked in years. However, I wanted to share my concern about spending over $100,000.00 this year on the linear shore line experiment at McNab park. It's a noble experiment but is it worth the money when we could cover the whole river? Ask any old time clammer from Cape Canaveral and they will tell you "oysters don't grow well here". They can teach you more about this area then the experimental data ever will. In an ideal environment, oysters will take over and grow on docks, seawalls and create underwater bars... Why is this idea bad? 1. Oysters don't grow well here because of lack of flow, poor water quality and heat. 2. Oysters are very sharp, which would be dangerous for kids and people enjoying the shore lines and sandbars. 3. Oyster bars can ruin props and hulls of boats. 4. Oysters do not allow sea grass to grow when they spread. Why would the city spend money on an oyster experiment when we know clams can thrive here? I think a more productive use of the grant money would be to plant clam seed in the river. 1 They cover more ground. 2 They don't create bars. 3 They can grow in any depth. 4. They don't need as much flow. 5 They used to grow naturally in our river. 6 They won't ruin boats. 7 They won't hurt people. The only difference in filtration is An oyster can filter 50 gallons a day while a clam filters 24 gallons a day. If filtration is the main point, lets use the money for what is tried and true instead of an experiment.
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