Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Short Term Rental Regulations Coming to Richardson

Movie: Project X

The Richardson City Council reviewed a possible ordinance regulating short-term rentals (STRs). This is in response to a public outcry over an out-of-control explosion in the number of short-term rentals in the City of Richardson, accompanied by an enormous number of nuisance violations (noise, parking, trash). (The police chief was on hand to define "out of control" and "enormous": he said that the police receive "a handful" of complaints each year.) But the public wants short-term rentals banned, so the City Council has to do *something*. So they shall.

If you want to be heard about what the "something" should be, next Monday's public input session at the City Council meeting may be your last chance. What's likely then is approval of an ordinance that shall:

  • Require annual registration of residences being used as short-term rentals. The registration will require names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers of both the homeowner and a local emergency contact.
  • Require the emergency contact to respond, on site, within one hour of a complaint being made at any hour of the day, any day of the week.
  • Require posting of information inside the residence being used as a STR about noise, parking, and trash ordinances. The posting shall also include the layout of the residence showing the locations of exits and fire extinguishers.

All well and good. I support this. But I don't for a minute think this will solve the problem residents have with STRs. Many people don't want STRs regulated; they want them gone. All regulation will do is eliminate excuses by STR owners and guests that they didn't know that they couldn't have wild parties after midnight because no one told them. Now I admit that's something. And it gives the City Council an accomplishment to put on their next campaign flyer — "Passed Tough Short Term Rental Regulations". So for the Council members, that is really something. Color it done.

By the way, a woman in the audience really, really wanted to speak during the STR discussion, frantically putting her hand up several times, but the public is restricted to speaking only during the public comment section of the meeting, so she was ignored, except for two different people (a police officer and a staff member) coming over to speak to her privately. I hope she returns next week and speaks publicly when she's allowed. She'll learn how the Council can ignore her after listening to her, too.

The City Council had two other items of business on their agenda:

  • Electioneering Signs
    Source: Mark Steger.

    They discussed amendments to the electioneering sign ordinance at the Civic Center. It looks like Richardson will adopt a limit on the number of signs a candidate can place on city property. Probably 10-12, versus the dozens (hundreds?) that sprout each day with the current lack of any restrictions. (I'm fine with the lack of restrictions. I'm also fine with setting a reasonable limit. See? I'm easy to please.) The proposed ordinance will also allow the signs to remain in the ground overnight all during early voting through Election Day. (I'm all for that change. Requiring that the signs be pulled up each night and replaced each morning was just silly.) As for the number of signs, Council discussed limiting the number to 3 or 4 in each of 3 or 4 different areas of city property in an attempt to force signs to be spread out. (It seems to me they should just place a minimum distance requirement between any two signs for the same candidate, say 100 ft. That controls the density automatically, no matter how much land is made available for campaign signs. But no one thought of that alternative and I wasn't allowed to speak — hurrah for that, all the Council members probably think).

    By the way, the electioneering sign ordinance will get a cleanup of a decade-old typo that limits stakes used to anchor signs to a "one foot" diameter. LOL, right? But it made me wonder. Was there a problem that led to the maximum width of stakes being specified a decade ago? Has the typo caused any problems in the decade since it's been on the books? If not, why is it needed at all?

  • Pocket Neighborhoods

    Sam Chavez, Director of Development Services, gave an exciting presentation on "pocket neighborhoods". I say "exciting" because six of the seven Council members all used some synonym of "exciting" to describe their reaction to Chavez's presentation. I considered that very welcome. It was the first time in my memory that the Council or staff considered the City's zoning ordinances and land use plan to be too outdated to accommodate emerging housing designs only through case-by-case planned developments. Play it again, Sam.

    Ken Hutchenrider was excited, but, as usual, got lost in the weeds with questions about building codes, which are not part of zoning and land use policy that was the subject of Chavez's presentation. Before deciding on the fire sprinklers needed, first decide on what kind of houses you want. The one Council member who wasn't excited about "pocket neighborhoods" was Bob Dubey, who confessed to being a "Debbie Downer", saying it all sounds good in theory, but he'll want to see the context before he's getting excited about any "pocket neighborhood." But overall, I liked what I heard.

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