City of Seguin considers limiting short-term rental occupancy – Seguin Today

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(Seguin) — The city of Seguin is trying to determine what, if anything, should be done about the growing number of short-term rentals available in the community.

The Seguin City Council on Tuesday began discussing the potential need for an ordinance, providing some regulations for these properties. It’s a growing problem nationwide, and many communities are struggling with what should be done to limit the rentals of these homes for something other than just a night away. Some communities have seen the short-term rentals used for big, blowout parties that become disruptive and a bit of a nuisance to neighbors nearby.

Local resident, Bill Campaigne lives on Meadow Lake. He spoke to the council about some of his concerns with the lack of local rules regarding short-term rentals. Campaigne says, people may not know it, but there are more of these properties in Seguin than they might think.

“The way the industry defines short-term rentals, it’s rentals on home properties less than 30-days. We have a short-term rental right next to our home in Seguin. And then there’s another, one to two doors down, on our same street. I was looking at Airbnb, and they say that there’s over 1,000 short-term rentals in the Seguin area, and I understand there’s little over 300 and something within the city limits,” said Campaigne.

Campaigne says he’s not looking to stop these kinds of rentals, but he thinks the city needs to have an ordinance on the books to make sure that everyone is protected.

“I’m not against short-term rentals. As I said, we have one in Santa Fe, NM, but I think it is imperative that there are ordinances for the benefit of the communities and for the renters. I hope the council will take seriously the considerations of ordinances for short-term rentals,” said Campaigne.

Renae Henze lives near some short-term rental properties in the Chaparral Subdivision. She says they’ve encountered a number of problems over the years. and the situation appears to be getting worse.

“I’ve been in Seguin for 12 years. We bought a house over in Chaparral in 2019, and we love the neighborhood. It was quiet. It was well kept. It’s still well kept. At that time, there were three homes – we’re across the street from the river – and there were three homes. Two were owned (and) one was up for sale. And by 2021, all three of those homes were turned into short- term rentals. We’ve kind of had a little bit of a nightmare since then, because these properties were sold to individuals whose focus was profit. It felt like we were faced with a revolving door of strangers coming and going next door, which is still what we face. The renters, understandably, are keen to get the most out of their short vacation. But with no connection to the long-term health or happiness of the river or us, coupled with no landlord on site and no one to voice concerns or report issues to — we as property owners are left with no recourse. We’ve called the police numerous times over the years. They rarely do anything other than give a verbal warning. While it may or may not suffice for the night, we’re only faced with new renters the next day and our issues begin all over again,” said Henze.

In the fall, Henze says there was a rental that was used for a party for teenagers. She says something has to be done to provide some regulations.  She showed them videos from one of the recent incidents.

“So, on October 22nd, there was a party at one of the homes. This home rents to 18-year-olds. At the time, it was priced at $150 a night, you can see where that would be an issue, and it allows for 28 guests overnight. It’s a two- or three-bedroom house,” said Henze.

Henze showed the council parts of videos that had been taken that have documented some of the problems that have occurred near her home.

“The time stamp here is 2:23 a.m. I don’t know if you can hear this or not, but it is a video that my neighbor (captured)…but you can see — at 2:00 in the morning — the traffic and the kids. This is River Oak Drive. We deal with this all summer.  This is not the first (time), (and) I’m sure it won’t be the last,” said Henze.

Henze says the noise is just one of the concerns that they have. She says there’s traffic, trash and other problems being caused by some of these short-term rentals.  She says there are also safety concerns, with large groups suspiciously showing up late at night.

“This is just some of the traffic and the cars all the time at different places. This was just the other night. I mean it’s constant at…different houses. This is at midnight; you can see they’re just coming and going. And they park in the yard. They drive through our yards. They park in our yards. They leave trash everywhere. It kind of feels like we’re living on fraternity row sometimes. So, it’s not just a noise issue. The trash cans never come in. You know, they only pick up once a week. So, you have multiple renters just dumping their trash and when there’s no room, they just set it on the side of the road and it blows everywhere,” said Henze.

Sydney Burton is another Meadow Lake resident. She says they haven’t had those problems like those seen in Chaparral, but she thinks the city needs to develop rules now to prevent more of these problems from occurring in the future.

“I definitely support the city looking into this, because it could be a nightmare everywhere and just blossom into a real problem, like what they’re having. So, I applaud you for trying to be proactive and taking a look at regulating this,” said Burton.

The item was placed on the agenda by Councilman Paul Gaytan, who also shared some short-term rental ordinances that have been adopted by cities, like New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. He says the city should review those and consider what could be done here, while also looking at existing ordinances that might address some of the concerns raised this week.

Councilman Jim Lievens says there are clearly some problems with some of these rentals, but he says Seguin may need rules that are different from New Braunfels and Fredricksburg, which significantly have more tourist traffic. Lievens says something needs to be done, but it needs to be a measured response based on what’s happening here in Seguin.

“I think the easiest thing is just to limit how many occupants per bedroom. I mean these folks should already be registered with us because they’re paying hotel and motel occupancy tax. But unlike the hotels and motels, there’s no on-site management (and) no on-site control. So, it’s rife for issues that could happen. But if we limit it by the number of bedrooms, then that that should solve a lot of problems. I don’t think you can enforce parking on open streets, but by limiting the number of people that can stay, that should limit the number of cars. To allow 18-year-olds (to rent) seems ridiculous. I mean, there seems to be some obvious things (that can be done). My belief is that this is going to be worse case anywhere in those lake areas. There is a reason why Treasure Island does not allow Airbnb’s. So, I think it’s those touristy areas along the lakes – River Oak (Drive), I’m sorry — is a prime spot. I’m sorry. There are areas where it’s going to be worse than others. But I don’t know how far we need to go,” said Lievens.

Mayor Donna Dodgen says in addition to looking at other ordinances, city staff also needs to have a better idea of exactly what’s happening across the city with short-term rentals. She says they need more information before they consider creating a new ordinance.

“I think that we need some data to look at numbers. I think we need some data to look at (police) calls. I think we need to look at some other areas as well. I think we need to look at monetarily, what it would benefit or not benefit. In all honesty, we need to look at the whole thing. I think something probably needs to be done, and I don’t disagree with letting staff look at that and make some decisions and give us some choices…and then let us decide how we want it to be,” said Dodgen.

City Manager Steve Parker says cities all over the country are struggling with this issue. Some have chosen to adopt severe limitations on short-term rentals. In some cases, the court system has struck down some of those rules. He says that means there will be some limitations as to what the city can do, and what it can enforce.

“There’s been some recent court cases that have deemed some of these rules, for cities of restricting it to residential, (it) is not being allowed anymore. Some of these cities still carry them. There are some court cases that have just been passed that would limit us, but I think there’s definitely things we could do to restrict occupancy and make sure they have parking plans and make sure they have safety measures in place,” said Parker.

Parker says staff has already started to look into this issue and it will bring back some recommendations for the council to consider. Meanwhile, he says they are also looking at existing rules and making sure that those ordinances are enforced. He says there are several possibilities to consider as they move forward with this discussion.

“In (the city of) San Marcos, when I was there, we actually developed the Bad Actor Program. The thought there was…if your house is continuing violations, you got so many violations within a certain year and the city council determined what those (violations) were – noise, trash, (and) all those types of things. If they got so many of those violations a year, they had to go into a registration system. And then after they registered, you had a direct number that they could contact. Now, San Marcos is actually going to a full registration system, but it’s still the Bad Actor Program, and after you’ve done so many violations, after that, then you could actually not be allowed to rent your place as an Airbnb. But actually restricting Airbnb’s across the city is really not allowed. You could do it probably (through) a homeowner’s association or something like that, that doesn’t allow it. There are some limitations, but we’re still starting to look at that,” said Parker.

Parker says they also want to meet directly with some of the short-term rental property owners to make sure that they are being good neighbors to those who live in any of those areas.

“I’ll call the homeowner myself, set up a meeting and say to these people, ‘we’re going have some strict restrictions coming up and they’re going to be even worse if you don’t start stepping up.’ And I’ll try to get them to confirm some of those (concerns). But (I also want to) still encourage them to call the police. The police chief is here, and he’ll make a commitment (to addressing this). We need everybody to call out. We get called once, and we do this with everybody, we go to a party (and say you’ve got to quiet down, and then they’re on that short notice. They don’t get a second warning. We can make sure those things are in place. The parking is a little bit harder (to enforce) unless you do limit them with some type of bedroom thing. That’s probably the easiest solution – is to list the number of people that can be in a bedroom. You know, some rooms are bigger, so maybe you can get some bunk beds and stuff like that. But I agree with everybody. That’s ridiculous to have a whole room there (for occupancy), because it just becomes egress issues during an emergency. So, I think those are all the things we would be willing to look at as staff. If the council wants a committee to vet that after we come up with some recommendations, we can do that as well,” said Parker.

The growing short-term rental market is growing. There may be some in your neighborhood, and you don’t know it. Many of these properties are located along the Guadalupe River and the hydroelectric lakes in this area. These properties are often available for rent through popular websites, like AirBNB, VRBO and others.

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