Work is still going on behind the scenes to get vacation rental homes — a lifeblood for Tourist Development Tax collection in Osceola County — re-opened here and in the rest of the state.
Vacation rentals, houses ranging in size from two-bedroom condos to larger luxury homes that are rented by out-of-town families looking for something more upscale than a hotel room, were not part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Phase I re-opening of the Florida economy.
Two weeks ago, County Commission Chair Viviana Janer noted that the Commission, joined by State Rep. Mike La Rosa, Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce President John Newstreet and Experience Kissimmee CEO D.T. Minich, sent a letter to Tallahassee to encourage DeSantis to allow vacation rentals to re-open, stressing that one home can be cleaned and sanitized better than a whole hotel. He responded days later with a decree for counties: send me your plan to re-open safely, and I’ll consider them case by case.
“If you tell me you’re gonna rent them out to people from New York City (a COVID-19 hotspot), I probably won’t approve that,” the governor said on Friday.
Janer and County Manager Don Fisher both said at Monday’s County Commission meeting that Osceola County had done just that, filing with the state’s Division of Business and Professional Regulations, to keep the process moving forward.
“No requests have been granted yet statewide,” Fisher said.
Vacation homes are in the same circumstances as amusement and theme parks, having to petition the state with a plan in order to start the process of opening gates. Fisher said that Island H20 Live, the water park adjacent to Margaritaville on the west end of U.S. Highway 192, had filed with the state.
“We will be under strict mandates and recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),” reads a statement on the water park’s web page.