Beginning next year, Marble Falls property owners must obtain a permit to operate a short-term rental within the city. The Marble Falls City Council unanimously voted in favor of a registration ordinance during its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 16.
Once the ordinance is enforced, short-term rental owners will be required to register their properties with the city as well as follow ordinance guidelines, such as parking regulations and limitations on the number of renters allowed on site at one time. Those in violation would face penalties of up to a $2,000 fine.
The ordinance, which can be read on page 50 of the meeting’s agenda packet, should go into effect by January of next year, City Attorney Patty Akers said. A draft of the ordinance was previously approved during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Nov. 4.
Prior to adoption, short-term rentals were allowed within the city without restrictions. Short-term rentals are outlined in the ordinance as single-family residences rented out for more than 24 hours and fewer than 30 days.
“This ordinance that we’ve drafted is narrowly tailored to address what we don’t know presently, which is how many we have, where are they located, and do we have a problem with short-term rentals,” Akers explained during the meeting.
Council members discussed the ordinance with Akers in executive session before voting it through. Once in open session, Akers explained the legal options the city has when restricting short-term rentals within city limits, referencing recent court cases that ruled bans on such rentals were unconstitutional.
“The Texas Supreme Court has determined that an Austin short-term ordinance was found to be unconstitutional because the city attempted to ban them,” Akers explained. “Austin appealed the decision of the Court of Appeals to the Texas Supreme Court, and the court refused to hear the case. So, for that reason and because we are in the Court of Appeals for Austin jurisdiction as a city, that is the law of the land as it applies to the city of Marble Falls in our area.”
Residents Patty Hundley and Danette Ginger, who both live near a short-term rental on Lakeshore Drive, spoke in favor of restrictions during the meeting.
“What I came here tonight to do is to try to see if there are certain areas you could restrict, certain little neighborhoods like ours, for example, but also to say: Would you please ensure us that you can enforce all of these rules,” said Hundley, who also spoke against short-term rentals during the Planning and Zoning meeting Nov. 4. “Clearly, the rules say that this is a problematic situation here, but if we make rules and people disobey them, which they often do, how in the world can you assure us that they will be enforced quickly, consistently, and always?”
“Part of this process is, if there’s a complaint, we don’t even know,” Mayor Richard Westerman responded. “There’s no record that shows it’s a short-term rental. It’s just a residential (dwelling). So, getting them registered and being able to start having records of these things helps in those endeavors.”
Residents were encouraged by council members to inform city officials and law enforcement whenever short-term rentals resulted in a neighborhood disturbance.
“I know for myself that, if there ends up being one in my neighborhood and it’s unruly, they’ll be hearing from me,” Councilor Reed Norman said. “I think all the citizens will do that.”
“Every time,” Ginger agreed. “I can promise you every time. It’s next door to me, so therein lies the problem.”