A request to subdivide a plat on Dunlavy Street in Montrose was unanimously approved by the Houston Planning Commission on April 13, moving forward a project that has raised concerns among some residents over its planned use for short-term rentals.

Referred to as Bria Place in agenda documents, the project is located at 2308 Dunlavy St., Houston, just north of Fairview Street. It is being developed by former Houston Texan Darryl Sharpton, who is looking to build two single-family homes at the site.

Because the request to subdivide the property did not violate any city regulations, officials with the planning commission said they were obligated under state law to approve it.

However, a number of public speakers who said they live in the area spoke out against the project based on the concern that it would be used for short-term rentals. The block where Sharpton's property is located is currently 100% residential.

The approval came two weeks after the item first hit the planning commission's agenda March 30, a meeting that resulted in the vote being delayed as staff sought clarification on legal questions over whether it qualified as a residential project and whether it violated any existing deed restrictions. At the April 13 meeting, Kim Mickelson, legal counsel for the planning commission, said the project was not in conflict with any deed restrictions or the city's hotel ordinance.

"The definition of hotel in our code includes transient uses," Mickelson said at the April 13 meeting. "I didn’t necessarily read transient uses for the public to secure overnight accommodations. Someone from the public is not going to walk into [this development] like you would a hotel."

Speakers at both meetings said they feared allowing the properties to be used for short-term rentals would result in increased traffic, parking problems and loud noise late into the night.

"You guys can read between the lines," resident Jason Ginsburg told commissioners at the March 30 meeting. "And you can realize no matter what Mr. Sharpton put on this plat, it is a commercial enterprise that he is going to be operating there. This is an opportunity to send a message to people that we are not going to allow this kind of hotel activity joining all the residential housing on this block."

Sharpton, who also spoke at the March 30 meeting, confirmed the intended use of the property is for short-term rentals, but added that it could be used for other purposes and emphasized that it was not a hotel.

"It’s a single-family home, and I could sell it down the road, put a long-term renter in there or could continue short-term rentals," Sharpton said. "I’m not at all looking to disturb the peace. I’m here to make the neighborhood more beautiful and create beautiful structures."

The fight to more tightly regulate short-term rentals in Houston is one that needs to be made at the Houston City Council level, not at the planning commission, Commissioner Bill Baldwin said.

"We can’t control what you do with your house. You can Airbnb it tomorrow. These meet the criteria we have been given," Baldwin said. "We feel the pain, but there’s really nothing we can do about it."

Although the city of Houston regulates hotels—including rules against hotels abutting residential homes—it currently does not regulate short-term rentals in ways other cities do, Mickelson said.

"Even if we had zoning that dealt with uses like this ... you don’t consider use at the subdivision platting stage," Mickelson said. "[Subdivision platting] is designed to be a very technical, engineering-focused review and application."

With the approval from the planning commission, Mickelson said the project still has hurdles to face before it becomes a reality, including the permitting process, which she said involves a closer analysis of land use.

Meanwhile, the city's Regulatory Affairs Committee discussed Houston's short-term rental policies in late March in response to complaints heard across the city about short-term rentals located within neighborhoods. At-large Council Member Sallie Alcorn and District A Council Member Amy Peck wrote a letter to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on April 11 recommending his administration "evaluate the pros and cons of registering and permitting [short-term rentals] in order to identify property owners and locations."