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With short-term rentals up nearly 80%, Lewisville weighs options for local regulation

Lewisville resident Debbie Hunt addresses Lewisville city council during the special session Monday evening.
Denton Record-Chronicle
Lewisville resident Debbie Hunt addresses Lewisville city council during the special session Monday evening.

More than a dozen Lewisville residents weighed in on short-term rental regulations proposed by the city of Lewisville during a special City Council session Monday evening.

The council took no immediate action, but elected officials heard feedback from residents, many in support of the regulations. Included in the proposal was a one-year ban on short-term rentals, made popular by sites like Airbnb and Vrbo, as well as a requirement that the rentals obtain annual permits from the city of Lewisville to operate. Rentals would be required to pass an inspection, carry $1 million in incident insurance, have a local property manager and be subject to specific occupancy limits to obtain a permit.

The number of Lewisville-based short-term rentals advertised on booking sites like Airbnb and Vrbo have increased 76% since January 2020, from 51 to 90, prompting city officials to join several other North Texas cities that have considered local regulations on the properties.

Denton will soon finalize changes to its short-term rental policies, which do not restrict short-term rentals to specific zones but do require operating permits.

Cities like Dallas and Fort Worth that prohibit the rentals in areas zoned for single-family homes are facing lawsuits seeking to overturn the bans, something Lewisville city officials considered when drafting the proposal discussed Monday.

“You have a lot of cities that are doing operating rules and those do not seem to be litigated as much as the ones that are having zoning rules that are saying you can't have them at all in single family or not allowing them in certain districts, or having a total ban,” Lewisville City Manager Claire Powell told the council.

Several residents who spoke in support of the regulations were part of the Lewisville chapter of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition, a statewide lobbying group that opposes short-term rentals. Strangers in the neighborhood, noise, parking and crime were among the concerns voiced most often by residents supporting the proposed regulations.

“I have five grandkids who come over and it scares me to think of all these strangers running around the neighborhood,” Colby Drive resident Janna Beckner told the council.

Local scandals involving short-term rentals, including a February shooting at one in Plano and another Plano property that was the site of a sex-trafficking bust, were among the examples cited by proponents of the regulations.

Local short-term rental operators spoke in opposition, citing the increased control owners have to address issues at the rentals as compared to long-term rentals.

“We own a long-term rental too, so I think the STR version is a much better version than long-term because you don't get that constant upkeep of the property, and STRS I think they bring a lot more value to the community because your next door neighbor doesn't have to worry about the house going down in value,” Bryan Swanson said.

Under the current proposal, short-term rental permits would be revoked if there are three convictions for violations of federal, state or local law on the property, including parking violations. Residents said they fear that regulation would not go far enough to prevent criminal activity.

“Experience from other cities like Nashville where shooting incidents occurred shows that convictions are the wrong trigger to deal with STR violations and do not provide relief to the neighborhood,” Firewater Circle resident Gary Ferguson said.

Proposed parking changes were also met with pushback from residents who felt it would penalize them for having a short-term rental in their neighborhood. The “optional neighborhood tool” would allow residents of a city block to opt-in, by a 75% majority, to a permit system that would prohibit on-street parking without a permit, including for guests.

The optional permit system would allow public safety officials to identify unauthorized vehicles including those belonging to occupants of short-term rentals, Mayor TJ Gilmore said.

Airbnb said they're open to working with city leaders to address concerns.

“Airbnb and our host community welcome fair, balanced regulations in Lewisville to help ensure home sharing continues to benefit residents and the local regional economy," an Airbnb spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "We’re supportive of a registration system and remain committed to working with Lewisville leaders to address community concerns.”

Powell will consider feedback from the public and bring any proposed changes to the regulations back before council for approval.