College Station is in the beginning stages of creating an ordinance that will regulate short-term rental housing.
At Thursday night’s city council meeting, council members directed staff to start drafting an ordinance that could address information including how to collect hotel occupancy taxes, the implementation of safety regulations and inspections, and a registration process.
In his presentation, Assistant City Manager Brian Piscacek pointed to the Texas Tax Code, which requires the collection of occupancy taxes from all hotels and short-term rentals. City Manager Bryan Woods said an ordinance would help provide a means for the city to collect the taxes.
While councilman John Crompton said he is concerned with collecting HOT funds, he added that he is more interested in the impact on the neighborhoods and investigating “protective measures” for them as the ordinance is drafted.
“My problem is that I don’t know what level of protection we’ve got now compared to the capacity ... or how far we are from pushing the boundaries,” Crompton said. “From my perspective, I want to push the boundaries as far as we can.”
The upcoming ordinance comes after months of staff research on resident opinions, regulations in other cities across the state, and court cases concerning short-term rental rules, all of which Piscacek presented to council.
For people operating through online platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway — which Piscacek said are used in 80% to 90% of local short-term rentals — the city could provide the company with the ordinance, then that platform would be responsible for giving College Station the taxes.
Councilman Dennis Maloney stressed his desire to implement fines to enforce the upcoming rules.
“If the punishment of violating the law is harsh enough, people will pay attention and pay, but if it’s not, it’s cheaper to pay the fine than comply,” Maloney said. “Let’s make sure that the cost of working underground is prohibitive.”
Maloney also suggested requirements such as parking restrictions and a brochure with local emergency contacts and other safety information. Councilman John Nichols expressed similar interests in a brochure with contact information provided to people who stay in short-term rentals, as well as letting them know that part of their bill as a visitor is going toward hotel occupancy taxes.
Council members differed on their opinions of how exactly registration should be implemented. Mayor Karl Mooney said he would like to see a first-time registration fee and then a lower annual renewal fee that could include inspections, so the renewal fee would essentially cover the cost of the inspections.
Two people spoke to the council about their opinions on an ordinance.
The council also approved a resolution that allows Woods to start conducting an assessment of the College Station hotel and tourism market. The goal is to identify opportunities to increase hotel occupancy tax revenues. The study will identify markets such as regional associations, corporate groups and national and international education meetings, review existing tourism assets, examine the regional market and more.
Council members also permitted city staff to begin working on an ordinance related to tree preservation and buffering in residential areas.
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