Plano council weighs rights of short-term rental landlords against complaints from residents

Lawyers, city staff and Plano residents spoke to council members about short-term rentals during Monday’s city council meeting. Residents have complained about crime, loud parties — and even a brothel operated in one. But city staff and attorneys say it’s unclear what the city can do to regulate them.

“The law is unclear 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 from the Texas Neighborhood Coalition of Plano spoke at the meeting. They want the city council to enforce Section 14 of the city’s zoning ordinance, which prohibits hotels, motels, boarding houses and bed and breakfasts in single-family residential areas.

Cristy Davidson lives next door on a short-term rental. Davidson says she and her neighbors worry every week about who is going to rent this house.

“Drug activity? Yeah, probably,” Davidson said. “And finally, three weeks ago, what seemed like a weekend brothel, with naked women, cars lining the streets full of men.”

Police arrested two women who were allegedly involved in sex trafficking at a short-term rental in Plano late last month. Police Chief Ed Drain said the incident was the only complaint of sex trafficking in a short-term rental in Plano this year.

Bill France leads the Plano coalition. He said the city’s current ordinance should apply to short-term rentals.

“Any kind of transient accommodation is prohibited, and any other assertion of the intent of this law is an intentional attempt to circumvent the truth,” he said Monday evening.

But Paige Mims, the Plano city attorney, said the same argument didn’t work for other cities when their short-term rental case hit the Texas courts.

“Clearly the courts have indicated that they would like to see clear regulations specifically for STRs if you’re going to implement certain regulations,” Mims said.

The city attorney also said short-term rentals don’t fit the city’s ordinance for hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts or boarding houses because of their smaller occupancy size.

Abernathy said 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 landlords’ constitutional rights.

The number of short-term rentals in Plano is increasing. France said there were already 700.

“As soon as there is one, there is another, and very quickly you no longer have a neighbor next door,” France said. “You have a revolving door of strangers.”

A local told France that someone had rung his doorbell asking for heroin – drugs were being sold at a nearby short-term rental. Another short-term rental from Plano was used for sex trafficking. The Dallas Police Department arrested two of the people involved in the short-term rental in late September.

Drain said at Monday’s meeting that the police department handled 105 calls for service from January to September of this year in short-term rentals. Of those calls, 60 were party-related complaints – things like noise, alcohol or drugs. He said 45 of them were noise-related.

Luis Briones, Airbnb’s head of public policy, said in a statement that the company “supports reasonable regulations that address community concerns, protect property rights, and preserve the benefits that short-term rentals provide to residents. and the economy of the state in general”.

“The overwhelming majority of hosts on Airbnb are responsible neighbors who rely on home sharing to supplement their incomes in the face of rising costs of living and to accommodate guests who support local small businesses,” Briones said.

Do you have any advice? Email Caroline Love at [email protected]

Caroline Love is a Report for America body member for KERA News.

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