Residents will still have the ability to regulate vacation rentals after a bill attempting to ban local rules on the tourist-town trend died in the legislature last month.

The short-term rental industry has ballooned on the island in recent years, like it has in other tourist towns, and residents and rental owners alike agree that maintaining the city’s ability to regulate the industry is best for the island.

Residents of Galveston can petition to the city to assign their neighborhood a zoning district that bans vacation rentals by 75 percent resident consent, according to city land development regulations.

This safeguard on resident needs is important to maintaining a healthy balance for the industry, said Mary Branum, president of the Short Term Rental Owners Association of Galveston.

That the bill died is good for maintaining the local control residents want, she said.

“We’re firm advocates that there needs to be more teeth in ordinances,” Branum said.

Three Galveston neighborhoods have banned short term rentals: Colony Park, Cedar Lawn and Adler Circle.

It’s a system that works for Galveston and one that isn’t hampering the island rental market, said Claire Reiswerg, co-owner of rental property company Sand ‘N Sea Properties.

“I think the industry’s doing very well and I think it’s very strong,” Reiswerg said.

Her business is up this year, despite neighborhoods restricting vacation rentals, she said.

“We just wanted our decisions about vacation rentals left up to our own community,” Reiswerg said.

The proposed legislation likely died because it was too complicated and people couldn’t agree on the details, Reiswerg said.

But both she and Branum expect a similar bill to return to the state legislator in two years.

That remains to be seen, said bill proponent Philip Minardi, director of policy communications for HomeAway.

The international vacation rental marketplace advocated for the bill, stating that bans on vacation rentals drive the industry underground, depriving cities of collectable hotel occupancy tax.

“We haven’t explored what the next session will bring,” Minardi said. “But we look forward to continuing our work to promote Texas travel and tourism at the capitol and in communities across the state.”

Galveston is host to about 5,000 hotel rooms and about 2,700 registered vacation rentals, according to the Galveston Park Board of Trustees, which promotes island tourism.

The park board estimates the island has about 700 unregistered vacation rentals, which means the city isn’t collecting hotel occupancy tax on sales at those units.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; or on Twitter @HeathKeri.

(1) comment

Bailey Jones

700 unregistered rentals, assuming $100/night and 50% occupancy, is almost $13 million in revenues a year, or $1.1 million in lost tax revenues for the city. Surely the park board could afford to hire someone to hunt down these scofflaws.

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