How complex is regulating short-term rentals?
Earlier this year the Texas Legislature had three bills on the matter and didn't pass any of them.
And Monday, there were about as many views on the topic by the Flower Mound Planning and Zoning Commission as there were P&Z members at the dais.
After a lengthy discussion the commission voted to table a recommendation for an ordinance that would create a definition and standards for short-term rentals.
Currently the town has a zoning definition for boardinghouse – renting out a dwelling for food/compensation to three or more people – in multifamily districts.
But last year the Town Council directed the staff to come up with a process for discretionary approval of short-term rentals in single-family districts where appropriate.
Lexin Murphy, director of planning services, on Monday presented a definition and several proposed standards. Short-term rental would be defined as the rental for compensation of a detached single-family dwelling for overnight lodging for a period not less than one night and not more than 30 days.
Standards include requiring a specific use permit (SUP) before operating a short-term rental property. The SUP would be eligible for automatic renewal if there are no concerns from residents located 200 feet away from the house. Otherwise it would go to the Town Council for review.
Concerns from residents about short-term rental houses have included noise from parties and consistent strangers in the neighborhood.
Murphy said the guidelines are meant to provide a path for approval and that the Town Council can always deny the SUP request. She said the staff would look at police department data to determine if there has been a history of calls at a particular house.
“This should give the opportunity to the neighbors to voice their concerns,” Murphy said. “And if there are no concerns, maybe this is an area where it works.”
Other requirements include: parking would be restricted to the garage and driveway, and tenants must adhere to a list of minimum safety requirements. Maximum occupancy would be two adults per bedroom and two additional adults for a total of 12 people. Tenants would have to adhere to town codes, such as noise ordinances, and the property owner must designate a local contact to be available on site within one hour of a call.
When asked how prevalent short-term rentals are in the town, Murphy said on one occasion the town found 30 Flower Mound homes advertised online, but she said that was just on one day and on three websites. She said few houses have been complained about, though one has received 11 complaints and another has received six.
But the commission opposed the guidelines for several reasons. Chairman David Johnson and others worried about how the town staff would oversee and enforce the process if it had to handle the SUP requests and renewals.
“If you take 30 of those (homes) that have to go through the process, I’m just thinking of resources and practicality of all this,” Johnson said.
Murphy said it wouldn't be much of a burden since the initial SUP requests would likely be staggered. She said most of the SUPs would receive automatic renewal.
“It wouldn't be the same workload annually because we assume they wouldn't all be problem sites,” Murphy said.
Others questioned what good the ordinance would do, saying there have been multiple complaints about two homes and nothing was done about it.
“It doesn't seem clear to me that additional regulations will provide additional enforcement,” said Commissioner Rob Rawson.
Commissioner Thomas Pickering called for banning short-term rentals all together. But Commissioner Brad Ruthrauff opposed that, saying the real problem is the town not addressing the complaints.
Murphy said while there have been multiple complaints, some calls were about things that weren't necessarily illegal, such as parking up and down the street.
Commissioner Adam Schiestel said if more municipalities ban short-term rentals, the Texas Legislature could take action.
“It’s possible that if we put controls in place and the overturn of these bans comes, our controls may survive,” Schiestel said.
Commissioner Robbie Cox said he favored either an all-out ban or the proposed guidelines with a stipulation the homeowner must be present at the house at the time of the rental to help reduce unruly behavior.
Commissioner Laura Dillon supported tabling the item until several lingering questions can be answered. Among those is how enforcement would be handled if a homeowner doesn’t acquire an SUP.
Several residents in the audience supported a full ban of short-term rentals, not guidelines.
Resident Brad Hicks said he lives near a house that is rented out to someone new nearly every night. Hicks said he has had to deal with the noise and parking that come from bachelor parties.
“You can't call the police all the time,” Hicks said. “And code enforcement doesn't work 24/7. So it falls on us, and that's not right.”
Resident Bryan McVicker, who rents out his house, said he supports the regulations and said short-term rental is a good source of income.
“It’s a situation that can work,” McVicker said. “I like the idea of having a host onsite because if I have my eye on you, you’re on your best behavior.”
The Town Council is expected to discuss the matter in closed session Nov. 4, and P&Z will host another public hearing soon after.