Residents of Adler Circle secured an initial victory Tuesday when the planning commission approved a request to recommend a zoning change that would ban all new short-term rentals in the neighborhood of about 50 houses.
The Galveston City Council must approve the request before it becomes official.
At issue was one short-term rental property in Adler Circle residents say has generated much ire and frustration, including noise complaints, cars parked on the grass and bottles in the yard.
The neighborhood, on south 53rd Street near Seawall Boulevard, is home to many older people who prefer peace and quiet, residents said.
Resident Marcy Hanson lives next door to the rental property, she said.
“I’m the one picking up all the beer bottles and the broken glass and the one who’s kept awake all night long by the drunks in the yard,” Hanson said. “This is out of place.”
That property will be allowed to remain a short-term rental property unless it stops serving that use for more than 365 days.
Rental property owner Bob Clark, who traveled from his Missouri home to attend the meeting, never intended for the property to become a party house, he said.
Clark is trying to make changes because he doesn’t want his property to be a problem for residents, he said.
“We’re going to be looking at our management company,” Clark said. “We’ve put in some noise detectors.”
The neighbors do have an informal homeowners association, but requesting a zoning change was preferable, residents said.
Formalized homeowners associations aren’t as common east of 61st Street or in older parts of the city, planning department Assistant Director Catherine Gorman said.
“The establishment and ongoing administration of an HOA can be burdensome,” Gorman said.
While not closed off with a gate, Adler Circle is surrounded by a fence that keeps the neighborhood relatively secluded.
Adler Circle’s request follows similar moves made by some other island neighborhoods. Cedar Lawn neighborhood also bans vacation rental properties and is similarly secluded. Colony Park also bans the rentals.
A neighborhood can request such a zoning change by a petition of 75 percent of the property owners, according to changes made during a 2015 land development regulation revision.
While short-term rentals bring more visitors to the island, they’re not appropriate everywhere, said Mary Branum, president of the Short Term Rental Owners Association of Galveston.
“We all should respect residents’ wishes,” Branum said. “We are a tourist destination, but there’s also the rights of the local residents and in given areas.”
These rights were up for debate two years ago, when some state legislators considered measures that would take away cities’ ability to restrict vacation rentals, she said.
“As of today, I have not heard any rumblings,” Branum said. “It doesn’t appear to be on the front-burner as it was in the past.”
A draft agenda of legislative priorities from the Galveston Park Board of Trustees specifically supports maintaining local ability to regulate the short-term rental industry, according to park board documents.
The park board manages island tourism efforts.
In 2017, a bill that would have banned a city’s ability to restrict short-term rentals made it past the state Senate but was never voted on by the House.
The residents of Adler Circle must still bring their request before the city council for final approval, which will likely go on the Jan. 24 agenda.