What is a Short-Term Rental?
The City of Fredericksburg defines a short-term rental as a privately owned dwelling, including but not limited to a single-family dwelling, multiple family attached dwelling, apartment house, condominium, duplex, mobile home, or any portion of such dwellings rented by the public for consideration, and used for dwelling, lodging, or sleeping purposes for any period less than 30 days.
Tourism is a major industry in Fredericksburg. Famous for its peaches, the Hill Country city is home to a wide variety of shops, wineries, wedding venues, art galleries, festivals, and historic sites, among other attractions.
Fredericksburg residents have been divided on the issue of short-term rentals (STRs). Some property owners were eager to rent their homes to out-of-towners, while others complained the visitors were disruptive to the community.
“STRs are needed in Fredericksburg,” says Aaron Beeman, 2022 president of the Central Hill Country Board of REALTORS® (CHCBR) and eXp Realty broker-associate. “We have the wineries and the weddings and all of these industries that require lodging. If you start removing STRs, that changes everything.”
Reaching Out to Texas REALTORS® for Help
Fredericksburg already had an STR permitting process and ordinances regulating the city’s 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. quiet hours, lights as a Dark Sky Community, and onsite and offsite parking. Beeman believes inconsistent enforcement of these ordinances led to more noise, lights, and parking complaints, which in turn prompted discussion of stricter rules. Some residents were tired of the STRs within city limits and wanted fewer of them—or none at all.
STR supporters formed the Fredericksburg Texas Short-Term Rental Alliance in spring 2021 to promote fair and reasonable regulations. It later published a guidebook titled “Fostering Good Neighbor Relations & Preventing Nuisance Complaints.”
Despite the alliance’s efforts, city officials began considering a new, more restrictive STR ordinance. CHCBR wrote a letter opposing an early draft of the ordinance, but the letter did not shift public opinion away from the stricter rules.
2020 CHCBR president Emaly Baehr reached out to Texas REALTORS® to ask about issues mobilization assistance. The board applied for and received a grant from the state association in February 2022. At that point, Texas REALTORS® got involved.
Get Help with Your Local Issues
Is there a local issue in your community that could affect the real estate industry in other areas of Texas? Is a new ordinance in the works that may adversely affect property owners or real estate professionals? Texas REALTORS® wants to know! Your local REALTOR® association can apply for help from the Texas REALTORS® Issues Political Action Committee (TRIP), formerly the Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee. If your application is approved, TRIP can provide political expertise, strategic guidance, marketing, and/or funding to help you address your local issue. TRIP can also offer advice or informal direction to local associations without an application. Contact your local REALTOR® association for more information.
The Texas REALTORS® Issues Political Action Committee (TRIP) provides financial support and other types of assistance for local REALTOR®-supported activities to enable REALTORS® and local REALTOR® associations to organize and manage effective campaigns to promote REALTOR® positions on public policies, such as laws, regulations, and ordinances. TRIP also considers whether local actions may set precedents or affect real estate elsewhere in the state.
TRIP’s Local Issues Fund helps support or oppose measures or actions proposed by local governmental bodies that concern the preservation of real property rights, real estate brokering, and the legal and economic rights of the real estate industry.
TRIP’s help can take several forms, including funding for activities and tools, a coordinated advocacy campaign, or behind-the-scenes expertise and resources.
“We built out a website with a call to action and designed it to make it easy for site visitors to email Fredericksburg city officials,” says Texas REALTORS® Director of Public Policy Julia Parenteau. “We also helped the local association communicate effectively with the city. We helped them with talking points and worked with them to find the right arguments. We gave them direction for who to talk with, drafting formal letters, and testimony before the Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council.”
Drafting a better ordinance
The Fredericksburg City Council heard nearly five hours of public comment before introducing the STR ordinance March 7. During the following two weeks, REALTORS® and alliance members met with city officials asking for revisions.
“When we met with the city manager and attorney, Julia Parenteau even pointed out issues they didn’t catch in the draft ordinance that could have caused legal action,” Beeman says. “It was eye-opening. The city saw we weren’t playing around. If we had reached out to TRIP even sooner, we might have been able to influence the process even more and get more of what we wanted.”
Ordinance No. 2022-13 was approved during the March 21, 2022 City Council meeting and took effect April 1. Among several code revisions, the ordinance defines examples of STRs and where they can be located. “Overall, the ordinance is a lot better than where it started,” Parenteau says. “There are some problems with it, but overall it is a win. The local association did a really good job advocating for their members and clients.”
It’s too early to tell how the ordinance will affect the city, its economy, and its real estate, but STR providers have clearer direction on how to welcome guests. The debate over STRs will likely continue in Fredericksburg. There is talk of STRs being a major issue in the upcoming city council and mayoral races. “There are always going to be the people who hate STRs for whatever reason,” Beeman says. “My take on STRs is anything that drives tourists is good for your economy.”
The CHCBR president is glad the local association reached out and was able to team up with TRIP. Their combined efforts and residents’ support led to a better ordinance and a better situation for all Fredericksburg residents. “When TRIP got involved, that’s when things started getting done,” Beeman adds.