At Wednesday night’s presentation by the architect hired to design the replacement for Belle Isle Key, the apartment complex on Belle at 31 Venetian Way, tenants at the complex complained that the owner was leasing a portion of the units for short-term rentals.
The assumption by many at the meeting — including Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer — was that the city of Miami Beach prohibited short-term rentals of less than six months on Belle Isle.
Diffenderfer said he believed the only zoning exception was The Standard, which was grandfathered in.
The city of Miami Beach’s website, under “Vacation / Short-term Rentals” says, “vacation/short-term rentals are prohibited in all single-family homes and in many multi-family housing buildings in certain zoning districts of Miami Beach.”
The map indicates no exemptions on the north half of Belle Isle.
And Miami Beach Planning Director Thomas Mooney confirmed that in an email, “The subject property is zoned RM-1 and does not have any special permit or approval to engage in short term rentals.”
But residents said that the owners of the complex, EuroAmerican Group, are renting an inventory of units in the complex like hotel suites under the brand Vista Mare.
It only took a Google search to find the Vista Mare website, showing units available. You can book them through the Vista Mare site, as well as through other major travel booking engines.
The website lists Jason Mamane as its contact, and Mamane was very upfront about Vista Mare. He said he and a partner lease a dozen units at Belle Isle Key (one and two bedroom, garden or bay view), and live in two more.
He said “the owners of the complex” reached out to them about running their operation, and as far as he knows, it’s allowed on Miami Beach.
“The property owners came to me,” he said Monday morning. “I have leases for the units I rent. We pay state sales tax and city resort tax on the rentals. Everything we do is above board.”
Other booking engines market the units as well. At hotels.com, four types of units are offered, starting at $195 a night: one and two-bedroom garden, and one and two-bedroom bay view. It’s also on sites such as Expedia.com, Booking.com, bookit.com and TripAdvisor.com, where it was posted as available by Jason M. in November, 2015. They show lovely exterior photos of the complex and Belle Isle, as well as photos of the units.
Meanwhile, on Airbnb, a “Superhost” named Kelly Montoya offers Belle Isle Key apartments (pets permitted with deposit) under the heading “So. Beach Condo Island Furnished.” The posting indicates, “one night minimum stay.”
Kelly is profiled as a “superhost: on Airbnb,com with this endorsement: “As the owner of four Miami Airbnb listings, Kelly is a highly-experienced host and is passionate about the services that she provides her guests.”
Mamane said he is aware that some units are marketed by Airbnb, but said those aren’t the ones he controls. “I’m not Airbnb. I’m here doing business the right way.”
At last Wednesday’s meeting, Belle Isle Key residents complained of poor behavior from some of the short-term guests, including a group that partied drunk at the pool late at night “in their underwear.”
Diffenderfer said he believed it was “not acceptable to rent anything short-term, not anything under six months. If it’s true we need to know and we need to have code enforcement on it. It’s not okay.”
Belle Isle used to be home to a couple of hotels. The site of the Grand Venetian used to be the Venetian Isle Motel.