The City of Plano drafted a short-term rental ordinance that was made available to the public on Wednesday, November 9, 2022, at 5 pm when the Plano City Council meeting agenda was published on the City of Plano website. The STR ordinance was on the agenda for a vote by Plano City Council for the Monday night meeting on November 14, 2022--only five days later. (Read the ordinance.)
Providing a rapid response, Dave Schwarte of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition drafted a letter to the mayor and city council members addressing the legality of the ordinance among other issues. The letter was emailed to the mayor and city council members on Sunday afternoon, November 13, 2022, and was also hand-delivered on Monday afternoon, November 14. Additionally, the letter was hand-delivered to the Plano Planning and Zoning Commission.
To follow is the letter by Dave Schwarte, Texas Neighborhood Coalition:
SENT ELECTRONICALLY BY EMAIL AND THEREFORE NOT SIGNED
November 13, 2022
To: Mayor and Members of the City Council of Plano
From: Texas Neighborhood Coalition
Subject: Short-Term Rental Proposal Published on November 10, 2022
Dear Mayor and Council Members:
I write on behalf of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition in support of our Plano chapter, which has been urging the City Council for months to remove short-term rentals from single-family residential neighborhoods.
We have reviewed the proposed regulation that was published on November the 10th, 2022. If adopted, this regulation can be interpreted as allowing short-term rentals, that is rentals of lodging to transients for compensation for less than 30 days, as permitted throughout the city, including areas zoned as single-family residential districts. If that is the intent or effect, then this proposed regulation is transparently a de facto and major change to the current zoning ordinance of Plano. As explained below, such an action by the City Council would be unlawful under the provisions of the Texas Local Government Code, as well as the Plano zoning ordinance.
Any objective review of the current zoning ordinance confirms that short-term rentals of homes are not allowed in single-family residential districts. Specifically, Section 14.100 contains a comprehensive list of the uses which are permitted as of right, or more restrictively those allowed with a Special Use Permit, in “Residential Districts.” Nowhere in the accompanying tables are short-term rentals of homes treated as a permitted use or even eligible for a SUP in those districts.
Importantly, the Plano zoning ordinance emphasizes that land and buildings in residential zoned districts may be used only for those uses specifically identified in the use table. For reference, Section 14.100 (Residential Districts Use Table), at subsection 3, provides
Land and buildings in each of the residential zoning districts may be used for any of the uses identified as allowed in the following use table, but no land shall hereafter be used, and no building or structure shall hereafter be erected, altered, or converted which is arranged or designed or used for other than those uses specified for the district in which it is located.
In sum, short-term rentals are currently forbidden in all residential districts. On that note, it is telling that the allowance of Bed and Breakfast in the ordinance, in district SF6 and only SF6, had to be explicitly spelled out in the zoning ordinance, as amended. The proliferation of short-term rentals across single-family residential areas in Plano is obviously far more of a threat to the stability, security, and sense of community of residential neighborhoods than a handful of Bed and Breakfasts, which must be owner or operator occupied, in just one residential district. Also, we note that the zoning ordinance does not permit “motels/hotels” to operate in any of these residential districts, and STRs are the functional equivalent of small, but unstaffed, hotels.
In any event, it is patent that the sweeping approach of the draft proposal, if viewed as allowing short-term rentals in single-family residential areas, would be a change, and in fact an enormous change, to the present restrictions on usage found in the zoning ordinance. Such a major change in uses permitted in residential districts -- by allowing a revolving door of strangers to supplant long-term neighbors at homes right next door -- would be extraordinarily destructive of the sense of safety, security, and belonging that is the fundamental reason homeowners in these areas made what is often the largest investment of their lives.
Accordingly, this draft proposal is unquestionably a proposed change to the zoning ordinance and is required by the Texas Local Government Code to be first considered by the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, and published for consideration by local residents at least 15 days in advance of consideration by Planning and Zoning, See Sections 211.006 and 211.007 of the Texas Local Government Code.
We also observe that Section 4.300.4 of the Plano zoning ordinance itself confirms that in the case of changes to existing zoning rules, the matter is to be considered first by Planning and Zoning, and requires no less than 20 days written notice in advance of the hearing.
Accordingly, we urge the City Council to withdraw this proposed draft as an unlawful attempt to modify existing zoning rules. If adopted without first satisfying the necessary requirements of the Texas Local Government Code and the Plano Zoning Ordinance, the proposed change to zoning regulations would be illegal and open the city up to litigation by Plano residents, litigation that in our view would have great merit. See Acuna v. City of Austin, (Tex. App. - Austin), Case No. 14-20-00356-CV, decided March 17, 2022.
Texas Neighborhood Coalition thanks the Mayor and City Council members for their consideration of this important communication.
David A. Schwarte
On Behalf of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition
cc: Catherine Parker and Bill France, for the Plano Chapter of Texas Neighborhood Coalition