Lewisville could become the second most-recent North Texas city to institute a one-year moratorium on short-term rentals, following Plano, if the City Council approves the measure in January.
After numerous complaints from homeowners about safety concerns and parking issues, City Council is studying the issue to see if new regulations will address problem properties.
Under the proposal, existing STRs would still be allowed to operate if owners follow the guidelines, which were discussed during a special City Council meeting Nov. 27, which followed an October public hearing that gave residents a chance to share concerns with city officials. People on both sides of the issue spoke to council.
Jeff Woods reiterated that safety is the most common concern shared by those opposed to STRs.
“That comes from strangers being in and out of houses that are next to us, with children involved,” Woods said.
Woods said it reminds him of the childhood parental warning “stranger danger.”
“Without banning short-term rentals in single family neighborhoods, we are exposing our children to stranger danger week in and week out, and we are robbing our children and adults from experiencing the neighborhood cohesion and safety they deserve.”
Quoc Lam told City Council that STRs are better for neighborhoods than long-term rentals, which are much more prevalent in the city.
“For long term rentals, as long as we sign the lease and the tenants pay the rent, the tenants have rights,” Lam said. “We cannot go into the house or inspect it, there is not much we can do as long as they pay the rent.”
Lam said with STRs, owners have online reviews, and they have to keep the properties nice so the business can thrive.
“We do a lot of things to keep the property in the best condition and to maintain our reputations,” he said.
Lam said civilizations grow by adapting to change.
“We have something new, we don’t walk away from it. We make revelations,” he said. “We have to cut out the bad apples and keep the good.”
STR regulations to be considered
Guidelines being considered include before an owner can advertise or operate a short-term rental, they must obtain a city permit and identify a property manager that can be reached by phone within 15 minutes and be on site within 1 hour to respond to complaints.
The number of guests would be determined using International Property Maintenance Code guidelines, which uses the square footage of each bedroom to determine how many people are allowed. Example scenarios given by the city included one STR that currently advertises the house will sleep 16, the number of allowed guests under the new guidelines would be reduced to 8.
Another possible regulation would be that any STR getting a permit must be current on hotel occupancy tax payments.
Parking issues were also a concern shared by residents. An optional tool being considered would allow neighborhoods to opt in for limited parking, and parking permits would be required for STR guests.
City Manager Claire Powell said Lewisville currently has 90 STRs, with 56% of the STR owners living in Lewisville and 4% living outside of Texas.
She shared a map of current STR locations, which are spread throughout the community but mostly located in the south and west side of the city.
“These regulations are intended to address problem properties,” Powell said. “The information that was provided in prior meetings, there were some properties that people didn’t have issues with and there were some that were bad actors and this allows us to be more exacting in our regulations.”
Powell said a halt of new STRs for one year would allow further study to determine if proposed regulations are meeting community needs and addressing problems.
Council member Kristin Green said she likes the idea of having immediate revocation if there is an egregious violation, but said the one-year ban on new STRs will not be helpful.
“Anyone with a current STR situation, the temporary ban is not going to prevent those STRs from being able to operate. I would rather give people the opportunity to follow the regulations and do it right,” Green said. “I feel like what we’ve got right now addresses so many issues that have been brought to council.”
Council member Ronni Cade also did not see the need for a temporary ban.
“We’re talking about a ban for 12 months. When we first started discussing the ban, it was until we get the ordinance,” Cade said. “This is a pretty good ordinance. It can be changed at any time.”
Cade said as for parking, most complaints such as blocking driveways and mailboxes, ordinances are already in place for those issues.
“Those are already in the books. What we’re trying to figure out is to make sure everyone’s rights are heard and are kept. The saying, ‘Their rights stop where it infringes on my rights,’ the same is the reverse. We have to be very careful and we’re treading a thin line on this.”
Council member Brandon Jones disagreed, and said the one-year ban on new STRs should be put in place.
“I do think we need the temporary ban to get our ordinance up to speed and to see what works and see what doesn’t work,” Jones said. “I think we need to do something to satisfy our residents but also to allow ourselves the time to get where we need to go. We want to promote good behavior and discourage as much as we can, the bad behavior that we’ve seen and that we’ve heard from our residents over the last few months.”
Powell said the plan is to bring something back in January for further discussion, so City Council can continue the debate on the ban and drill down more on topics such as parking, platform, accountability, back taxes and immediate revocation for egregious actions.
More recent STR actions
Other cities are also tackling the STR issue.
Christina Day, director of planning for Plano, said the task force has finished its Phase I report and has started Phase 2, which they will be working on through the spring.
Following hours of discussion, questions of staff, a public open house, and after the third task force meeting, members presented the findings to the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council for consideration.
“Though the decision to move forward was unanimous, several members expressed reservations about one or more individual Findings. Notably, some members felt that the Task Force started with a predisposition against STRs and, as a result, did not feel that the process was fair,” according to the report.
In June, Dallas City Council approved new rules that restrict where STRs can operate and made it mandatory that properties be licensed to allow guests to stay.
Recently, a group of Dallas short-term rental operators filed a lawsuit against the city, saying new regulations banning the units from single-family neighborhoods are unconstitutional and violate property rights.
District Court Judge Monica Purdy agreed and blocked the city from banning short-term rental properties in single-family areas, saying they infringe on property owners’ rights and are an example of government overreach.
When asked about the judge’s decision, Lewisville Mayor TJ Gilmore told The News decisions like in the Dallas case will have an effect on how other cities regulate STRs.
“STR regulation continues to be uncharted territory for all of our cities, and we fully expect judicial decisions to impact what we can and can’t do as a community,” Gilmore said. “This is just one more bit of data and clarity that we need to make sound policy decisions.”