Sarasota News Leader

08/02/2013

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OPINION WHEN GREED BECOMES A THREAT TO PUBLIC SAFETY EDITORIAL Early on the morning of Oct. 28, 2007, fire broke out in a beach cottage at Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina. Sleeping in the house were 13 college students — 12 from the University of South Carolina and one from Clemson University. Seven of those students died that morning. Several of the six who escaped were hospitalized. It is the nightmare of every parent, naturally … the concern that one's child could perish in such a senseless way. But it also is a concern magnified in beach communities, where owner-investors seek to cram as many beds into a property as possible, so it can be rented by large, extended families who are willing to pay mega fees that run into the thousands of dollars a week. Sadly, Siesta Key, as one of the premier beach destinations in the country, is no exception. A perusal of the popular website VRBO.com (for Vacation Rentals By Owner) lists a number of properties that boast five or more bedrooms. And the granddaddy of them all is a massive 12-bedroom house that claims to accommodate up to 40 occupants. That property — located at 6537 Sabal Drive on Siesta Key — is at the center of a protracted battle between Sarasota County Code Enforcement and the owner (or owners), who refuse to engage in any dialogue with county officials. As a result, the county filed suit in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court on July 17, seeking injunctive relief and the payment of fines incurred by the many violations of zoning rules and Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations on that property.

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