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Short term rental ordinance back on agenda for next city council meeting

Short term rental ordinance back on agenda for next city council meeting

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Short-term rentals (copy)

This house at 617 Columbus Ave. is among scores of properties with a special permit to operate as a vacation rental.

An ordinance that would tweak the rules for short term rentals is going back to the Waco City Council on Tuesday, after city council members voiced concerns about what the changes would mean for condo owners.

The current ordinance only allows for five short term rental units in one building in the C-4 zoning district, which is limited to the central business district and Elm Avenue. The new ordinance would remove that restriction, while also adding language that would prevent a single owner from converting an entire building into a short term rental complex. The new rule would also extend short term rental licenses from one year to two and allow guests to use on-street parking in areas where it is available.

The proposed changes have evolved over the course of the past two city council meetings, with city staff incorporating recommendations from council members. The council first voted to approve the ordinance changes in December, then pulled the item from the Feb. 4 agenda.

During the Feb. 4 work session, District 5 City Councilman Jim Holmes said the ordinance should include more specific language about condo associations.

“There was an effort made to put some restrictions in traditional neighborhoods,” Holmes said.

He said most condo associations already have an existing short term rental policy residents have to follow, but he would want those policies to be made explicit, along with rules about renters using common areas such as pools in each building.

He also called for condo associations to notify each condo owner of their policy and inform new residents before they move in. He said those measures would make the process for condo owners more similar to the one homeowners go through when they apply.

“If the association and owners agree to those terms and the immediate neighborhood is OK with it, I’m OK with it,” Holmes said. “If it isn’t, I’m not. I want to retain that standard for the condos as well.”

Holmes said the new measures for condos would be part of the permitting process, but it would mostly be up to individual condo associations and condo owners to enforce the rules and report short term rental units that brake them.

Planning Director Clint Peters gave a presentation late last month about the revised ordinance to neighborhood associations that oversee areas effected by the change and sent out surveys to members to gauge support for the proposed changes.

Brooks Oaks Neighborhood Association President Sammy Smith said his association is in favor of the proposed changes, including one that would affect R-2 zoning districts, which are designed for duplexes. In those districts, the city would require a 500-foot buffer zone between “Type II” short term rentals, which are single-family properties that operate without an owner present.

The 500-foot buffer already applies to other residential districts including R-E, R-1A, R-1B, and R-1C.

Smith said Brook Oaks’ boundaries contain a handful of short term rental properties, including Airbnb and more traditional bed-and-breakfast inns.

“We didn’t have any major problems with short term rentals,” Smith said. “The only thing we had concerns about was the possibility of being saturated with so many.”

Downtown Neighborhood Association President Andrew Lopez said he is concerned lifting the restriction on on-street parking would exacerbate a lack of parking along arterial roads in downtown. He said technical trouble prevented his neighborhood association members from filling out the Plan Commission’s surveys.

“It seems the short term rentals are getting some additional preference compared to residential homes,” Lopez said.

Lopez cited an informal report about on-street parking in downtown, presented to Waco City Council in November 2017. The report states 40% of the single-family houses have either no off-street parking or limited alley access parking located at the rear of the property, and most of the houses do not have space to add off-street parking.

“Thus, the availability of on-street parking is important to provide adequate parking for the residences of these single-family homes,” the report states.

The report also states Magnolia Market at the Silos employees and people visiting the Veterans Affairs regional office on Clay Avenue make heavy use of on-street parking spots downtown.

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