Wimberley council votes to dissolve Short Term Rental committee

After a year of work, the controversial Short Term Rental (STR) Committee in Wimberley will conclude its services after city leaders Aug. 1 voted 3-2 to deny a one-year extension and workshop.

Council members Gary Barchfeld and Craig Fore both cast dissenting votes.

Conceived in August 2018, the committee was formed and charged to draft an ordinance to bring out of compliance STRs into compliance. But the group’s work became the center of controversy as residents argued the committee was trying to solve a problem that did not exist. 

A year later, with $7,500 spent on drafting the ordinance and on legal counsel, the group will cease to exist without having a workshop with the council. 

Mayor Pro Tem Rebecca Minnick and Councilmembers Christine Byrne and Bo Bowman led the charge to not extend the committee and not schedule an Aug. 1 joint workshop.

The committee helped update the STR ordinance, identify the eight noncomplaint STRs in the city, outlined a procedure for staff to follow to identify properties not in compliance, and made recommendations to the council, Byrne said. 

“I do appreciate the chairman’s (letter to the council), and I’m sorry he chose not to present to the city council at our last meeting which I requested that he do,” Byrne said. “At this time I feel like I have a good understanding of the issue and do not feel a workshop is necessary.” 

Both city leaders and residents questioned the motives behind the committee’s charge. In March, the committee estimated some 200 STRs in the city were out of compliance with the ordinance. 

In May, that number shrunk to 15. By late July, there were eight STRs out of compliance in the city.

In a letter to city leaders, STR Committee Chair Albert Valera said there were outstanding issues that needed to be resolved. However, since there was widespread communication of the committee’s work, the city experienced a “significant decrease (93%) in noncompliant STRs” from 123 to eight. 

Recommendations from the committee included adopting an administrative renewal fee, as well as directing City Administrator Shawn Cox to implement new guidelines on STR regulation.

“Therefore, the STR Advisory Committee cannot guarantee a smooth transition, much less sustainability, of the STR Program to the city,” Valera said. 

Council members Gary Barchfeld and Craig Fore felt the committee should have a joint workshop with the council after a year of work on the ordinance. 

But the meeting took a turn when STR committee member Tim Dodson periodically interrupted city leaders and raised his voice during the Aug. 1 meeting.

Minnick, who was running the meeting in Mayor Susan Jaggers’ absence, asked Dodson to not interrupt the council’s discussion. 

Dodson continued to yell over Minnick, as she repeatedly asked him to stop. Cox had to step in the frenzy and asked the chair of the meeting to take charge.

Bowman said he has seen members of the STR Committee abuse city staff during its meetings throughout its tenure, which he believed was intolerable. Additionally, Bowman felt the financial cost of the committee was a burden to the city.

 

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