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Council committee will consider “parallel” changes to short-term rental ordinance

Friday, August 14, 2015 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

City staff has been whittling down an assortment of 123 suggested changes to the city’s ordinance on short-term rentals. The result, sent in a memo on Thursday to Mayor Steve Adler and City Council members, is a list of 13 recommendations, including a penalty for those operating with an expired short-term license and a requirement that rental operators maintain a registry of guests.

These recommendations culled from join those put forward by City Council Member Sheri Gallo (sponsored by Adler and Council members Ann Kitchen, Ellen Troxclair and Pio Renteria) on Friday, Aug. 7.

“It was really important for us to do the parallel process to make the ordinance as inclusive as it could be,” Gallo told the Austin Monitor.

Gallo said she has spent the past two months meeting with residents affected by short-term rentals, along with stakeholder groups such as the Austin Board of Realtors and the Austin Rental Alliance. City council members’ recommendations were carved from these conversations, she said.

A public hearing on all short-term rental recommendations will be held at the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee on Monday. When the hearing closes, Council members will then grapple with the two sets of recommendations, forwarding one version onto Council for consideration on Thursday.

While there is some overlap between staff’s and Council members’ suggestions (both are asking that short-term rental operators keep a guest log, be subject to specific noise requirements and undergo an inspection as part of the application process), there are notable differences. Council members are recommending that the city require short-term rental owners to have property insurance that includes commercial liability coverage and that no more than two adults sleep in a bedroom.

The Austin Rental Alliance has said that it supports any changes or additions that help the city’s Code Department enforce a standing ordinance. But, as Austin Rental Alliance spokesperson Mark Littlefield told the Monitor, the organization’s members could not stand behind rules that make short-term rental operators’ jobs harder.

“The ordinance we have in place now has become known as the best practice in the United States,” wrote Joel Rasmussen, president of the Austin Rental Alliance, in a statement. “The Austin STR program has been lauded by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Conference of State Legislators.”

Littlefield said representatives of Austin Rental Alliance will be testifying at the Council committee meeting on Monday – along with many others, said Council Member Greg Casar. He said at Council’s meeting Thursday that he anticipates having to limit the number of speakers at Monday’s public hearing, but that he would ultimately defer to the committee members for this decision.

“I have already taken a look at the city manager recommendations, and there’s enough in the resolution and the recommendation for the committee members to have a discussion for probably over an hour,” said Casar.

Adler appealed to those City Council committee members Thursday, asking them to be diligent. “As much as we want this to move quickly, please get this right,” he said.

Gallo reiterated that idea to the Monitor.

“As much time as this has taken, we want to make sure we address everything, and not forget something and have to come back in a year and deal with it,” she said.

Photo by cincy Project made available through a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

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