Councilman Bill Richardson hosts short-term rental town hall meeting

Single Member District 1 City Councilman Bill Richardson held a town hall meeting Thursday at the McNease Convention Center to further discuss the much-debated topic of a pending short-term rental ordinance to a crowd of about 20 San Angeloans.

The City Council is slated to consider Jan. 17 the final approval of the ordinance, which would allow and regulate STRs. The closely-contested measure won preliminary approval last month by a 4-3 vote.

Among City employees present to answer the public’s questions were Assistant City Manager Rick Weise, Planning and Development Services Director Jon James, City Attorney Theresa James and real estate director Cynthia Preas.

Richardson began the gathering by asking for brief comments and questions from the public regarding the proposed ordinance’s enforcement.

A majority of the questions came from citizens opposed to STRs. A major concern early in the meeting came from confusion over the issue of grandfathering clauses.

“In the short term rentals that are already out there, it’s not like they get off and don’t have to do anything,” James said. “The ordinance just gives them up to a year to get the approvals and comply with the ordinance. But at the end of the year, they still have to meet all of the ordinance’s standards.”

James stressed the planning commission could deny approval if neighbors are concerned with a particular site and that no guarantees will be made regarding grandfather clauses.

Preas addressed the issue of liability, should a lawsuit arise regarding taxpayers’ money from an STR.

“There are rules in place that allow us as a city to protect your tax money from those lawsuits.” she said.

James went on to the describe the conditional use process.

“The planning commission has the ability to place additional conditions on it.” James said.

When the issue of occupancy arose, James said it can be problematic to enforce. The ordinance limits the number of occupants to no more than six unrelated people.

Several San Angeloans at the gathering voiced approval for bed and breakfasts, but wanted to draw a line between B&Bs and STRs, emphasizing an on-site manager/owner to control the stay with bed and breakfast establishments.

One homeowner opposed to the ordinance who has had difficulties with an illegal STR said it comes down to “a respect thing. It’s a respect thing.”

Richardson ended the meeting by re-stating his opposition to STRs, which drew applause from a majority of the room.

  • Last month, Richardson presented to Council items that he said were a compromise between the City and a short-term rental representative. Among recommended changes to the proposed ordinance as presented by James were: There must be an owner or property manager that resides within the county to deal with any issues that arise;
  • A notice must be placed within the property with contact information for that person, as well as a posting of the rules of the STR;
  • No camping will be allowed, with the exception of pup tents for children staying with renters;
  • No STR on City-owned leased lots;
  • No bed and breakfasts or STRs on streets less than 30 feet in width (because of issues with parking);
  • No STR within 500 feet of another STR (those two requirements do not apply to existing, registered STRs); and
  • Conditional use approval must be renewed after one year and then every two years thereafter.

The issue will be decided Jan. 17, with a final vote by City Council.