Advisory committee proposes changes to short-term rentals ordina - KXXV Central Texas News Now

Advisory committee proposes changes to short-term rentals ordinance

(Source: KXXV) (Source: KXXV)

This week, an advisory committee comprised by 15 community members is expected to release a draft with proposed changes to the ordinance in place for operating short-term rentals in the city of Waco.

"We do think they are a positive addition for the tourism in Waco but also to protect the neighborhoods they could possibly be located in,” Waco City Planning Director Clint Peters said.

According to Peters, the proposal would require those wanting to have a short-term rental to get a license after meeting certain requirements.

Jill Barrett, who was part of the committee, has been renting out her home featured on HGTV’S Fixer Upper for short stays since 2015. She said the proposed ordinance is very specific and protects property owners, neighbors and guests.

"It gives owners of the properties a framework from which to operate as well so they can know the rules, know inside the bounds and everyone is happy and everyone can be good neighbors to each other. I think it just creates that system where everyone knows what their lane is,"Barrett said.

To get approval, the proposed rentals located in single-family neighborhoods would still be required to get a special permit, which means they have to go before the Plan Commission and City Council for approval.

Something Brook Oaks Neighborhood Association Vice President Sammy L. Smith who is part of the advisory committee said he would support.

"It gives the community, the neighborhood, a process of approving it or disapproving it," Smith said.

However, those in areas with mixed use or commercial zoning could obtain their license without going through that process. However, they would still have to meet the same requirements as the rest of them.

"Our existing ordinances are outdated and they don't address a lot of the concerns that we've been hearing and with Waco tourism being on the uptick, I think it is being proactive,” Peters said.

In residential areas, short-term rentals would only be allowed within 500 feet or almost a block from each other. The short-term rentals that don’t meet those distance requirements currently would be grandfathered in.

Smith who said short-term rentals could be a good thing when managed correctly stated he would support having a distance requirement. "That gives at least a comfortable buffer for the residents that live in that area so you don't have three or four in a block,” Smith said.

Smith said he is still has concerns about the draft not addressing the enforcement of the house rules that short-term rental owners have in place.

Another change the proposed changes would require would be for owners of short-term rentals to provide contact information for neighbors. This would allow them to reach out them if there are any problems instead of going through the city.

Nathan Embry, the president of Highway 84 West Neighborhood Association and member of the Waco Variance Board said in an email the proposed changes in general are a great start.

"We redefined some key terms that will help out with people wanting to rent their property out.  We discussed at length many different scenarios of "what ifs" to help identify weak spots. Ultimately our goal was to make things easier on citizens seeking to do this, but also fair for rest of the community," Embry said in an email. 

Pam Whitworth who owns several short-term rentals and a property management company was part of that committee.

"The city did a great job in their research and the committee offered valuable input which I believe will enable them to present a fair proposal to the city council," Whitworth said in an email. 

There will be a public hearing about the draft on June 19 at the South Waco Community Center at 6 p.m. After reviewing the input, the Plan Commission will make recommendations to the city council. Council members would ultimately vote on what the final ordinance looks like. 

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