West Lake Hills short-term rental committee to take second look at survey draft

Council members Darin Walker and Beth South discuss the draft of the short-term rental citizen survey.

Council members Darin Walker and Beth South discuss the draft of the short-term rental citizen survey.

A citywide survey drafted to gain insight into how West Lake Hills citizens feel about short-term rentals in their community is being sent back to the drawing board.

The five-page online survey, created by a subcommittee after months of discussions, was presented at city council’s March 23 meeting. Residents commented both in favor and in opposition to the survey as well as the idea of codifying an ordinance.

The questions ranged from asking if the citizen has any experience with STRs to what kind of regulations citizens would like, including special-use permits and limitations on capacity and length of stay.

Mayor Linda Anthony said the draft survey questions were “seemingly biased,” and several citizens said the draft survey survey targeted only the negative aspects of STRs.

“Going into this survey with the presupposition that we absolutely need new regulations and new ways to pay for those regulations, that’s my concern,” West Lake Hills resident Scott Griffin said.

The questions implied there was already a problem and that these STRs needed to be regulated, he said.

Anthony said since last summer, the city council received multiple complaints from various neighborhoods including Black Acre, leading council members to believe STRs needed to be regulated in some way. The council formed a subcommittee—including council members Stan Graham and Darin Walker—in November to address these concerns.

Graham said after reviewing the concerns, he felt “pretty strongly” about regulating STRs in some manner.

“There are problems,” he said. “We discovered our city code doesn’t necessarily address those problems. It may not be a large problem, but there’s certainly a potential for a much bigger one.”

In neighboring Rollingwood, short-term rentals have been banned since 2010. In December, Lakeway passed an ordinance limiting the number of special-use permits allowed for short-term rentals to 43, and Bee Cave currently does not regulate STRs.

STR owner Gretchen Lara-Shartle said her rental is located about 70-80 feet from her own home. She said she did not want city council to “punish” everyone for the actions of those STRs that are causing complaints.

“I don’t personally see a problem with licensing,” Lara-Shartle said. “You can just take away someone’s license if they are doing something that is wrong, like making noise.”

Anthony said after hearing residents’ comments at the meeting, she would like to see the draft survey reviewed.

“To be quite honest, we don’t have a good handle of what the public perception of short-term rentals is,” she said.

David Garza, who lives on Wildcat Hollow, said he would like the survey to be drafted by a professional survey writer. Graham said the subcommittee would consider the idea.

Council members unanimously approved postponing possible action on the draft survey to April 13 following a review by the STR subcommittee.