Code enforcement in our city was historically 75-80% proactive and 20-25% reactive. Proactive refers to complaints that city staff identified vs. reactive which refers to resident complaints. The onus shouldn't be on residents to identify code complaints and our city staff agrees.
I have been working actively with our city staff to increase the amount of proactive code enforcement that occurs. In collaboration with our code enforcement team, I have begun to organize proactive "ride alongs" between our city staff and residents to help calibrate our priorities and begin to more proactively identify and address code enforcement issues. We can improve code compliance without adding additional staff.
Florida law prohibits cities from banning vacation rentals and vacation rentals are critical to our tourism economy. All residents agree that vacation rentals must be properly managed and we need to crack down on the party houses that have taken over our city. I have been collaborating with residents and city staff to bring forth workable solutions for addressing the issue.
Using the new HostCompliance technology, we have already identified approximately 190 vacation rentals that are not properly registered with the city. Our existing ordinance includes stiff penalties for vacation rentals that violate our rules and ordinances. Fines begin at approximately $150/day and repeated violations will result in a landlord's license being revoked.
Still, there is significant opportunity for improvement. I am currently evaluating strategies that take the onus of neighbors for rectifying this serious issue. Improved communication between our police officers --- who are the ones frequently responding to complaints -- and code compliance is the next critical step in resolving this issue for residents.
We need to focus on create physical distancing opportunities for our restaurant and venue customers by turning side streets connecting to Wilton Drive into one-way roads where appropriate, making the remaining lane usable by businesses and providing flexibility for sidewalk and parking lot service .
We must diversify the mix of businesses that make Wilton Manors great. Create incentives for "9 to 5" offices and small businesses to open in Wilton Manors, attracting foot traffic to our restaurants and retail during the day. We should focus on attracting co-working space and startup friendly office space, and I would bring forth a suggested Business Diversity Ordinance. .
We need improve foot traffic to our Arts & Entertainment district by making our streets more walkable, increasing tourism, marketing street fairs and events (when safe to do so) and increasing nearby residential density. We should streamline the process for obtaining special event permits, easing the burden on business owners and creating entertainment options for residents.
The city should expand Wilton Manor's Business Enhancement Grant and increase the grant size, offering 75% reimbursement up to $2,000 for any business that improves the exterior appearance of their business and promotes walkability on our streets by adding landscaping and/or public art installations.
Engage a volunteer or staff member to serve as the City's liaison to the business community. This ambassador should be present at business association meetings and have a clear understanding of the city's code compliance and operational procedures in order to consult with small business owners on concerns like signage, parking, code compliance, special permits, etc.
I am the most qualified candidate to address the needs of our small business community. I've been a small business owner for more the a decade, earning a Small Business of the Year Award and the endorsement of respected community business leaders. I am honored to serve on the Board of Directors for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce as well as an active member of the Wilton Manors Business Association (WMBA).
Housing costs and commercial rents continue to skyrocket, making living or doing business in Wilton Manors unaffordable for potential buyers or business owners. New businesses struggle to keep their doors open and a growing number of commercial strips are nearly empty and desperately in need of renovation. I support updating our development and land use restrictions in several strategic corridors so long as we maintain the integrity of residential neighborhoods.
Increasing residential density increases our tax base, which will be critically needed now due to COVID-19’s impact on our budget. Increasing our residential density will also help to support our local small businesses and help to attract a train station.
Residential real estate experts point to a coming wave of new Florida residents, driven by residents from the Northeast eager to leave behind crowded city life, high state taxes, and COVID-19 health risks. These new residents will raise our property values, add to our tax base, and fill newly built apartments and condos.
We must work actively to promote Wilton Manor's quality of life and community culture to prospective residents and share our residential development opportunities within the real estate community.