A lower than expected number of noncompliant short-term rentals (STRs) stunned Wimberley city leaders last week as they postponed installment of a fee funding software meant to find them.
By a split 3-2 vote, Wimberley’s city council postponed implementing a proposed renewal fee for conditional use permits (CUP) to operate an STR in the city. Council members Gary Barchfeld and Mike McCullough cast the dissenting votes.
However, the city ultimately approved the second reading of changes to its STR ordinance by a 5-1 vote. Council member Allison Davis was the dissenting vote.
To pay for the estimated $20,000 for the software and administrative process, the STR Committee proposed a $50 per occupancy fee, not to exceed $500.
However, the discovery of 15 noncompliant STRs led some city leaders to raise concerns about how the proposed fee could be set up in the future.
“I am reluctant to ask (STR owners) anything more than a nominal fee,” said Councilmember Erik Wollam. “I’m not interested in voting right now until I have more information on the matter.”
To some Wimberley residents, the 15 noncompliant rentals addressed what they felt was Wimberley’s STR Committee’s mission to search for a solution to a problem that might not exist.
“You’ve approved spending a ridiculous amount of money to smoke out these alleged hundreds of noncompliant STRs in the city limits, which has proven to be a complete waste of time,” said Molly Bowen, an STR operator and attorney who’s led the fight against Wimberley’s STR rule changes.
Bowen said the annual renewal for a CUP to operate an STR would be discriminatory in nature as no other CUPs in the city require an annual renewal.
However, tempers flared on the dais as city leaders squabbled over access to Host Compliance’s data.
Davis brought the data to the attention of the council after she requested it from the city. But Davis was the only member to receive that information prior to the meeting.
Mayor Pro Ten Gary Barchfeld and Mayor Susan Jaggers criticized City Administrator Shawn Cox for not relaying the information to every member of the council. Jaggers said it was “disappointing.”
However, Cox said the information was made available around 4:30 p.m. May 2, which is why Davis was the only one who received it upon request.
“I think those numbers should have been included in the packet,” Barchfeld said.
Davis, who has adamantly scrutinized the city’s attempt to regulate STRs, said there were many different ways the city could address STRs that didn’t send money to a large corporation on the backs of local business owners.