Local regulations for vacation rentals during pandemic are approved by tourist council

  • Fernandina Beach at sunset. FILE
    Fernandina Beach at sunset. FILE

After a brief discussion Tuesday morning, the Amelia Island Tourist Development Council unanimously approved a plan for Nassau County’s vacation rentals to reopen to future guests. That plan must now be approved by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and by the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners.

According to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “full” Phase One reopening plan for the state in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Florida’s 67 counties may now “seek approval to operate vacation rentals by submitting a written request and county vacation rental safety plan” to the DBPR. That permission from the governor took effect Monday.

“My goal is to get this to Tallahassee today,” County Manager and Attorney Mike Mullin said Tuesday. Mullin said the plan for Nassau County is similar to plans submitted by other counties. “Bay County was first and Bay County has been approved,” Mullin said.

“If the plan is approved by the Department, Nassau County will issue a local Emergency Order that codifies the plan,” according to the document discussed Tuesday. There is a Board of County Commissioners meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday.

The plan calls for an 18-hour buffer between rentals to allow for “cleaning and inspection.” Cleaning is to be done with CDC compliant products and signs about cleaning protocols will have to be posted. DBPR’s own “Sanitation and Safety Requirements of the Transient Lodging Statutes” must be followed as well.

Many of the requirements in the plan are mandatory:

· Housekeeping personnel shall wear masks and gloves for each cleaning.

· Cleaning inspections separate from the cleaning personnel shall be utilized to inspect the cleaning of each unit.  The inspectors shall wear gloves and masks during each inspection.

· All employees shall have a wellness check upon arrival to work. The wellness check, at a minimum, will consist of a temperature check.  Staff members who have a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be permitted to work.

· Employees shall be provided gloves and masks to be worn when interacting with the public.

During the county’s proposed emergency order on vacation rentals, there will be a 10-person occupancy cap on rental units.

Unit owners or rental companies “shall advise” guests who have been on a cruise or out of the continental United States within 14 days of their booking that they “shall be self-quarantined for 14 days.”

As long as the governor’s orders restricting travelers from the “tri-state” area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are in effect, as well as restrictions on visitors from Louisiana, “(they) must be advised of the quarantine for fourteen (14) day requirement.”

If the governor adds more “hot spots,” according to the plan approved Tuesday, those will be incorporated. “In addition, they have to fill out the Health Department form and the form must be provided by the owner of the unit or manager to the Health Department. Reservations and bookings from international travelers “shall not be accepted.”

All guests must be provided with copies of Nassau County and DeSantis’ orders when they make reservations and again at check-in. The plan says remote check-ins should be available.

The plan also recommends that hand sanitizer be available “in all common areas, including lobbies, pool decks and elevators.”

Fernandina Beach City Commissioner Chip Ross, who is also an emergency room doctor, said the plan "looks solid, and I will support it."

Asked by Fernandina Beach Vice Mayor Len Kreger how the restrictions will be enforced, Mullin said the first enforcement will come from DBPR and the “second” could come from local law enforcement. Kreger added that his concern is for fair enforcement across the board.

Gil Langley, the president and CEO of the Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, asked the board to approve spending TDC reserves to jump start a marketing program. That request was also unanimously approved.