Plano city council talks short-term rentals after sex-trafficking bust
Plano council members are likely to be talking about short-term rentals like Airbnb in residential neighborhoods at a meeting Monday night. Residents have complained about crime, loud parties — and even a brothel being operated in one. But it’s unclear what the city can do.
More than 20 volunteers with the Texas Neighborhood Coalition of Plano have signed up to speak at the meeting. They want the city council to enforce article 14 of the city’s zoning ordinance, which prohibits hotels, motels, boarding houses and B&Bs in single-family residential areas.
Bill France heads the Plano group. He said the city’s current ordinance should apply to short-term rentals. But France said the city can’t enforce it because Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sided with short-term rental groups in previous cases.
Paxton argued in a 2018 amicus brief that an Austin ordinance against short-term rentals violated the property owners’ constitutional rights.
“The city says we are powerless in enforcing this,” France said.
Luis Briones, an Airbnb public policy manager, said in a statement that the company “supports reasonable regulations that address community concerns, protect property rights, and preserve the benefits short-term rentals provide to residents and the broader state economy.”
The number of short-term rentals in Plano is growing. France said there’s already 700.
“As soon as there’s one, then there’s another, and pretty soon, you don’t have a neighbor next door,” France said. “You have a revolving door of strangers.”
One resident recounted to France that someone rang their doorbell asking for heroin — drugs were being sold at a short-term rental nearby.
Another Plano short-term rental was used for sex-trafficking. The Dallas Police Department arrested two of the people involved at the short-term rental in late September.
“The overwhelming majority of Hosts on Airbnb are responsible neighbors who rely on home sharing to supplement their income amid the rising cost of living, and to welcome guests who support local small businesses,” Briones said.
Jessica Black co-founded the Texas Neighborhood Coalition in Arlington after the city had a similar issue with loud parties and crime at short-term rentals near the sports stadiums and the entertainment district. She said Arlington, Grapevine and Austin have also had issues with short-term rentals.
Black said how much a city can regulate short-term rentals is different case by case depending on each city’s ordinance.
“The one constant in all those cases is that cities can prohibit short-term rentals going forward,” said Black, who was an attorney before becoming a stay-at-home parent.
But Black said it's less clear if cities can put an end to current short-term rental properties.
The Plano City Council declined to comment on the issue until after the city council meeting. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the Plano Municipal Center. It's also being streamed on Plano TV and Facebook.
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Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News.
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