Plano council weighs rights of short-term rental owners against resident complaints
What will Plano city council members do about short-term rentals? That's something they're still figuring out.
Attorneys, city staff and Plano residents spoke to the council members about short-term rentals at Monday’s city council meeting. Residents have complained about crime, loud parties — and even a brothel being operated in one. But city staff and attorneys say it’s unclear what the city can do to regulate them.
“The law is not clear on a number of these issues,” said Richard Abernathy, a private attorney hired by the city to consult on short-term rentals.
More than 20 volunteers with the Texas Neighborhood Coalition of Plano spoke 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.
Cristy Davidson lives next door to a short-term rental. Davidson says she and her neighbors worry each week about who's going to rent that house.
"Drug activity? Yeah, probably," Davidson said. "And finally, as of three weeks ago, what appeared to be a weekend brothel, complete with naked women, cars lining the streets filled with men."
Police arrested two women allegedly involved in sex-trafficking at a short-term rental in Plano at the end of last month. Police Chief Ed Drain said that incident was the only sex-trafficking complaint at a short-term rental in Plano this year.
Bill France heads the Plano coalition. He said the city’s current ordinance should apply to short-term rentals.
“Every type of transient lodging is prohibited, and any other assertion of the intent of that law is an intentional attempt to circumvent the truth,” he said Monday night.
But Paige Mims, the Plano city attorney, said that same argument hasn’t worked for other cities when their short-term rental case reaches the Texas courts.
“It’s clear that the courts have indicated that they would like to see clear regulations specifically to STRs if you are going to implement some regulations,” Mims said.
The city attorney also said that short-term rentals don’t fit the city’s ordinance for hotels, motels, B&Bs or boarding houses because of their smaller occupancy size.
Abernathy said that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has intervened on behalf of short-term rental owners in other cases. Paxton filed an amicus brief in 2018 in support of short-term rental owners. He argued that an Austin ordinance against short-term rentals violated the property owners’ constitutional rights.
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.
Drain said at the Monday meeting that the police department has handled 105 calls for service from January to September of this year at short-term rentals. Of those calls, 60 were party related complaints — things like noise, alcohol or drugs. He said 45 of those were noise related.
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 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.
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Caroline Love is a Report For America corps member for KERA News.
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