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Short Term Rentals Making for a Long Council Meeting

City of Austin
The memo in question: The city stated a previous short term rental vote occurred in error, but later found that wasn't the case.

The Austin City Council is expected to take action on new regulations for short term rental properties this Thursday.

The decision comes after some confusion about whether the council would postpone action until August 23. As KUT News previously reported, the city inadvertently muddied the waters last week by posting a memo stating the council’s initial vote on the matter would be disregarded as notice of the meeting was not publicly posted. But later that day, city staff realized the action was publicly posted, and its previous statement was in error.

Council Member Kathie Tovo expressed concern over whether the public knows that council will be moving forward on short term rentals this Thursday. But Council Member Mike Martinez doesn’t think it’s an issue.

“There’s been plenty of discussion and I doubt there’s confusion,” Martinez said. “The people that care about this issue know exactly what’s gone on. … And they know that this is coming this Thursday, and the word will get out there.”

City Council has been dealing with the issue of short term rentals for more than a year. In January, council directed the City Auditor to create a comprehensive list of all such rental properties in Austin. Council has also stepped up collection of hotel occupancy taxes from the rentals after a study revealed tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Public comment remains closed for final votes on the new STR regulations, which would require property owners to obtain a license, and limit the number of STRs by zip code. But citing a number of potential  amendments, council member Martinez warned the council’s discussion itself could take hours – and had strong words for council members who would seek substantial changes but not ultimately support passage of the changes.  

“If there are amendments that are going to be asked of us to be considered, will those council members offering those amendments support this item if those amendments area adopted?,” he asked. “And if the answer is no, I’m not going to support amendments. I don’t appreciate that tactic of trying to amend an item just to vote against it in the end.”

“I have a slew of questions, some of which have been out there pending for a while,” council member Tovo replied. “And I will be asking them on Thursday. “

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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