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Kyle carefully considers short term rental regulations

The debate over short-term rentals (STR) has now made its way to Kyle.

On Feb. 6, the Kyle City Council directed the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to further study STR in the wake of potential city regulation.

Talk of regulating STR was first introduced via a Jan. 26 city newsletter to residents, which announced the practice was not allowed in residential zones.

But the STR movement has seen its fair share of legal arguments, mainly in a city’s ability to legislate whether homeowners can use their property for commercial use.

Cities like Austin, San Antonio and San Marcos have recently dealt with issues surrounding short-term rentals, with Kyle now joining the fray.

However, Kyle does not have an ordinance in place to legislate the use of STR in the city’s residential areas.

The absence of a STR ordinance doesn’t necessarily mean that STR can’t ever be regulated, said Abbey Gray, Media Law professor at Texas State University.

Currently, no state laws exist that prevent cities from crafting ordinances surrounding STR. In 2017, Senate Bill 451, authored by State Sen. Kelly Hankock (R-North Richland Hills), aimed to curb cities from passing regulations against STR. While the bill passed the senate in April 2017, it ultimately died in committee before going to the Texas House of Representatives.

“The only thing that seems clear to me is that the city couldn’t likely retroactively apply a penalty to STR that occurred before the decision was in place,” Gray said.

Executives usually have discretion in enforcement. For example, if the city sees that STR are causing other issues, like noise or litter, then they can take steps to regulate the activity that causes these issues, Gray said. 

But on Feb. 6, the topic of STR regulation boiled over as city leaders held a heated debate on the issue. It ultimately led to a split 4-2 vote in favor of involving P&Z to gather community feedback and public opinion on STR. Council members Shane Arabie and Tracy Sheel cast the dissenting votes.

With P&Z workshops occurring only on the last Tuesday of the month, council will not have an ordinance concerning STR until May.

“I have not received word from the city concerning my business but this is a discussion we need to be having for our citizens,” said Roy McMullin, a small business owner who operates an Airbnb located in Kyle’s extraterritorial jursidcition. “With hotels often filling up during big events, people will look at other cities in the area and Kyle loses business that way. What we’re doing keeps people in Kyle.”

McMullin operates another Airbnb in South Padre Island, Texas, where he had to receive permission and permits from the city for his home.

But, for his property in Kyle, no permits were needed. The process was as simple as listing the home on the website.

Gray said she was unsure of any legal arguments against Kyle, unless correct procedures were not taken in making the proposed regulation.

“As far as risks to the city, the only one I really see is that it opens itself up to potential litigation, which can be expensive,” Gray said. “But the city is entitled to consider that risk and weigh it against other concerns.”

Dex Ellison, District 1 Kyle City Council member, said he is confident in P&Z’s ability to gather public input for STR.

Although the city will not have an ordinance for another few months, Ellison said the city’s position to not allow short-term rentals is part of a larger discussion on how to accommodate the city’s inevitable growth. 

“We have a commission that’s eager to get involved with this,” Ellison said.  “They have until around May to come up with this data, but the decision will ultimately come to council.”

McMullin said he is confident that the city will reach an agreement regarding the future of STR, which he hopes would allow him to continue operating his business.

“The community will have their concerns and those are valid,” McMullin said. “No one wants parties and random people in gated neighborhoods or near schools. There needs to be regulation.”

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