ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — A battle is raging on how vacation rentals should be controlled in Florida.
Earlier this year, First Coast News showed you how local leaders spoke before legislators in Tallahassee. They voiced their concerns with bills that would give the state regulatory power over short term rentals, and remove it from local governments.
The other side of the argument-- short term rental owners -- are standing their ground in the state's capital as well.
Airbnb owner Blake Souder spoke before a legislative subcommittee, saying he supports the bills.
Souder owns an Airbnb in the Lincolnville neighborhood of St. Augustine and he also manages another one next door.
"I clean them myself," he said. "I greet every single guest.
He's been in the short term rental business since 2015.
"It's been great for me as far as upward mobility," he said. "I've been able to buy another house."
The legislative bill would basically undo the new local laws that the city of St. Augustine just passed regarding short term rentals.
"I feel like the city of St. Augustine is trying to abuse vacation rental owners and operators," Souder said.
The new city laws require short term rental owners to pay a permit fee. City Manager John Regan said that the fee would be about $400.
The new local laws would also require that short term rentals owners meet safety standards and provide one off-street parking space per bedroom to ease parking problems for residents.
At one of Souder's rental properties, he doesn't have any off-street parking. He would need two spots because he has two bedrooms.
He says he would have to rent two parking spaces at the city's parking garage "at $327 each for my guests to park 1.2 miles away in the garage without guaranteed parking."
"That's why I call it a money grab," Souders said.
First Coast News contacted the city manager John Regan and City Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline with Souder's concerns.
They said the $400 permit fee will pay for enforcement of the new laws and safety inspections. As for the parking spaces, Regan said Souder and other short term rental owners could use spaces on private property with permission.
Regan said the local laws are not a money grab.
"This is not about money," he said. "This is about the city's desire to have home rule and have standards and tranquility between residents and short term rental owners."
Sikes-Kline said, the new laws are about "maintaining the quality of life" and responding to the needs of the residents.
However, Souder and other short term rental owners hope the state gains the upper hand and passes the legislation.