Marble Falls soon could have a short-term rental ordinance after the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a draft at its Nov. 4 meeting. To go into effect, the ordinance must be adopted by the City Council.
Short-term rentals are defined as residential properties rented for at least 24 hours and no more than 30 days at a time and often used by property owners to generate income. Their popularity has increased over the years with the use of rental apps and websites such as Airbnb, Vrbo and HomeAway.
The draft ordinance requires owners to obtain both an annual city permit and property insurance for each property before it can be rented. The ordinance outlines a short-term rental owner’s responsibility for paying hotel occupancy taxes for each rental. It also outlines regulations for renter parking and limitations on the number of renters allowed on site based on a bedroom-to-occupant ratio. In addition, it limits amplified noise between the hours of 10 p.m. and 9 a.m.
Planning and Zoning commissioners discussed the ordinance with City Attorney Patty Akers in executive session. Commissioner Jason Coleman recused himself from the discussion.
“The ordinance that’s in front of (the commission) is simply a registration ordinance,” Akers explained once the commission was back in open session. “For the most part, (short-term rentals) under this ordinance will be treated the same way as other residential properties. There’s a couple of exceptions to that, but, for the most part, it’s consistent. The use is going to be considered residential, even though money gets spent and changes hands.”
Because the ordinance must still go to the City Council for approval, the commission had not planned to hear from the public during the meeting. However, commissioners allowed attending residents three minutes each to share their opinions
Speaking in favor of the ordinance, Marble Falls resident Patty Hundley thanked the commission for working toward regulations, noting her experience living near a short-term rental. She voiced concerns, however, about enforcement.
“I applaud the fact that there are to be some regulations, but I also know that there are lots of people who pay no attention to the regulations,” Hundley said. “I’m wondering who’s going to enforce (the regulations)? The police? Are they going to come every time I call? Because I’m going to call every time.”
In contrast, Jerry Merlick, who recently moved to Marble Falls from Austin, said he believed the ordinance, especially the limitations on how many people can be on a property at one time, to be unenforceable.
“The fact that you can’t have more than 12 persons at a given location at any given time seems overbearing,” Merlick said. “What are you going to do if you own a place and you want to have your friends over to your place and it’s also a short-term rental? Can you not have 12 people over there? You’d be in violation. There’s some problems in how it’s written now, and enforcement is going to be difficult. I think there’s a lot bigger problems to solve in this city.”
The commission has worked periodically over the past year to come up with an ordinance. The issue has been complicated by court cases and reports on how and to what extent cities and other governing bodies can regulate short-term rentals, Assistant City Manager Caleb Kraenzel said in a statement to DailyTrib after the meeting.
“Amidst the regulatory activity of other communities and outcomes of (short-term rental) court cases, we have been evaluating what the best approach to the issue is for Marble Falls,” he wrote.
During his final comments, commission President Fred Zagst addressed Merlick’s concerns.
“Basic registration is what we’re talking about here,” Zagst said. “It’s a fact-finding chance, and you can say that’s going to lead to the next step and the next step. The big thing is, hopefully, we don’t have an issue and we just keep this right here and don’t have to come back and revisit this. It’s up to the short-term rental owners and how they run their properties.”
NOV. 11 UPDATE: The ordinance will be presented to the City Council at the Nov. 16 meeting. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers, 800 Third St. in Marble Falls.