Horseshoe Bay hopes short-term rental rules bring peace and quiet

Horseshoe Bay is taking measures to keep the peace between residents and visitors. The City Council discussed a short-term rental ordinance at its regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 15. Neighbors of some of the city’s vacation rental properties have had to deal with loud, rambunctious occupants, according to the council.

“This past year, we’ve noticed some of the rentals being posted online to sites like Vrbo were listed as three-bedroom homes that could hold 18 people,” Mayor Cynthia Clinesmith told DailyTrib.com. “It has escalated to the point where the quality of life for neighbors has become detrimental.”

About 373 short-term rentals currently exist inside the city limits, Development Services Director Sally McFeron told councilors at the meeting. Approximately 56 percent of those homes are single-family, meaning they’re located in neighborhoods rather than multi-unit complexes.

“Our community has a huge amount of our population of second homeowners,” Clinesmith said. “It’s always been a place where people bought with the intent of offsetting their cost with short-term rentals.”

A new ordinance will most likely include mandatory registration of short-term rental properties along with fees to help fund a management company to oversee online rental applications and ensure compliance. 

“We’re going to put an ordinance in place that will hold the owners responsible,” Clinesmith said. 

The ordinance could also require short-term rental owners have on-site managers to serve as liaisons between the city and renters.

“They’ll need to have an on-site person we can call,” the mayor said. “They may be a management company based in New Jersey, but if there is a problem in one of their locations (in Horseshoe Bay), we will need someone we can call locally to meet (city officials) at the property to act on behalf of the owner.”

Clinesmith said most short-term rentals have complied with other city ordinances, including curfew and capacity limits; however, habitual offenders made it obvious new rules are desperately needed.

“We probably have six homes that have been repeat offenders,” she said. “We need to get some ordinances in place before it gets away from us.”

Clinesmith said the ordinance will need to be tough and purposeful to ensure compliance.

“We want (the ordinance) to make a difference,” she said. “It’s not that we’re wanting to cause unnecessary pain. We want it to be something that gets (STR owners’) attention and makes them want to do the best they can.”

The city has discussed a STR ordinance for some time. After watching neighboring cities navigate the difficulties of implementing similar rules, Horseshoe Bay leaders believe they are prepared to draft a strong set of rules without fear of legal recourse.

“We started working on this over a year ago,” Clinesmith said. “We were monitoring what was going on in Austin. They had some huge issues, which led to some legal wranglings. We wanted to make sure we took time and understood those. We didn’t want to put ordinances in place that weren’t legally defensible.”

A drafted short-term rental ordinance could be presented to the council for review as early as February 2023, Clinesmith said.

nathan@thepicayune.com

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