Kyle to involve P&Z in vacation rental rules discussion

Heated debate on how Kyle should approach regulation of short-term rentals (STRs) led city leaders to task its Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commission to further study the matter.

But the move, which was done by a split 4-2 vote, left some Kyle City Council members to believe they were passing responsibility on an issue the city had created. Council members Shane Arabie and Tracy Sheel both voted against the measure.

Discussion on STRs sprung up after a Jan. 26 city newsletter announced STRs were not allowed in residential zones.

According to the newsletter, the city’s Code Enforcement Division “received several complaints” regarding homeowners using online STR sites such as Airbnb and VBRO to rent out their homes.

An STR, also known as a vacation rental, is where a homeowner rents their home or a room for a fee over short period of time.

Several major Texas cities, including San Marcos, Austin and San Antonio, have recently dealt with the legal issues surrounding STRs.

Currently, no state laws exist that prevent cities from crafting ordinances regulating STRs.

In 2017, Senate Bill 451, authored by State Sen. Kelly Hankock (R-North Richland Hills), aimed to curb cities from passing regulations against STRs. While the bill passed the senate in April 2017, it ultimately died in committee before going to the Texas House Representatives.

However, Kyle does not have an in-place ordinance regulating STRs in the city limits. City staff has also taken a position that STR’s are not legal in residential neighborhoods.

Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell, who proposed to include P&Z on the STR matter, said the commission’s involvement would be an exercise to gather data about the public’s consensus on STR.

Regardless of the precedent set by the Texas courts, Mitchell said the city of Kyle is currently not under an immediate threat of a lawsuit due to its position on STRs.

On Aug. 23, 2017, however, the Third Texas Court of Appeals joined state appellate courts in deciding that an STR does not turn a property into commercial use, deeming the practice legal.

According to city staff, P&Z will put the STR topic on its agenda on Feb. 13 to begin compiling data from citizens. City staff anticipates an ordinance outlining STR regulations to be written by May 1.

But Arabie said using P&Z would appear as if city council is “punting” responsibility on another city entity.

“You’re telling P&Z to go out and get comments from the public without a time crunch,” Arabie said. “I’m not discussing whether its legal or not. (Community Development Director) Howard Kootnz and our city has already made that decision. It’s our issue, not Planning and Zoning.”

Council member Damon Fogley, however, didn’t feel surveying data was the best path to go.

Fogley said previous efforts at receiving survey data and citizen participation has seen less than five percent interaction from Kyle citizens. The best way to get input from the community is through P&Z, he said.

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