JPs reluctant to regulate STRs in Garland County

Many of the issues that led the Hot Springs Board of Directors to pass an ordinance regulating short-term residential rental businesses in the city are taking place in the unincorporated area of ​​Garland County, but the Justices of the Peace questioned whether a similar regulatory regime was appropriate. for areas outside the city.

County Judge Darryl Mahoney explained to the Garland County District Court Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee earlier this week that the short-term rental controversy does not end at the limit between city and county. There could be between 600 and 700 in the unincorporated area, he said earlier this month.

“What we are seeing across the county are public health and safety issues,” Mahoney told the committee. “In some residential areas, especially around the lake, we see houses that are used for (vacation rentals by owner) and night and weekend rentals. What we are seeing are traffic problems. bedroom and 20 people show up, we have parking problems. They are blocking the street where emergency vehicles cannot pass. “

Mahoney said short-term rentals hosting large numbers of guests can tire out the home’s grinding pump, which carries sewage from the home to the sewage collection system that serves Hot Springs and most of the country. Garland County. Pumps are common in residential areas of Lake Hamilton, where there are a large number of short-term rentals.

Excessive amounts of garbage have also become a problem, as overcrowded short-term rentals produce garbage too large for the 96-gallon containers the county allocates to residences.

“The crusher pumps stop and waste spills out of their trash cans,” Mahoney told JPs. “Garbage is running out on the ground, dogs scatter it. We receive about three calls per week on average. This only overcrowds the homes they use (vacation rentals by owner).

“We certainly don’t want to prevent anyone from supporting themselves or trying to do business. We just want them to be a good neighbor.”

Justices of the peace questioned the power of the quorum court to regulate wastewater, given that the city oversees the collection and treatment of wastewater in the 145-square-mile service area of ​​the regional system.

Regulations are already in place for other issues related to short-term rentals, such as excessive noise, they said. County ordinance bans noise that disturbs the peace and quiet of residents from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

“The problem I have found with the noise ordinance is the lack of enforcement,” JP Jeremy Brown, R-District 12, told the committee. “Voters called voters who made a number of demands and complaints. The (Garland County Sheriff’s Department) is quick to respond, but they’re very slow to quote.

“Once there is a citation, the court may or may not apply it. I just don’t know how adding more rules on top of rules that aren’t even enforced is going to do anything.”

JP Matt McKee, R-District 9, said regulations must be enforced for them to have any effect. The city code contains a broad set of regulations, but McKee said they are not applied consistently.

“I know the rules that are in place in the town of Hot Springs,” he told the committee. “There are a lot of areas in this city that I don’t like to drive because these rules don’t seem to apply in a lot of places. More rules, more laws, more registrations, more permits doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. “

Mahoney told the JPs that they were further removed from the problem than he was as the county general manager.

“You don’t get phone calls every day,” he told the committee. “You don’t hear pleas from community members pouring garbage and sewage into their backyards. You don’t go through that, so it’s easy to say you don’t want to do anything about it.”

Mahoney said the county did not need a full set of regulations similar to those passed by city council, but needed to know the location of short-term rentals and the name of a landlord. or an agent who can be contacted in the event of a problem.

The city ordinance requires short-term rentals to register with the city. Registration information includes the name and contact details of a local agent who must be on site within one hour of receiving a complaint.

“We have to find a way to follow these people,” Mahoney told the committee. “If you have this person logging these packages, you will be able to track them. At the moment, we don’t know if this is their house or if it’s a facility that they will be renting for three or four days. .. This poses real security problems. “

McKee and Brown said passing regulations on parking, sanitation and other public health and safety concerns should not be specific to short-term rentals. Some of the same issues affect residential areas where there is no short-term rental, they said.

Brown cited the college court meeting earlier this month, when a voter complained about vehicle parking on his neighborhood street and traffic being blocked. The college court told him that the county code does not regulate where vehicles can park in residential areas.

“We can’t do anything because we don’t have an order,” Brown told the committee. “If we want to create an ordinance or a law, it has to be for the whole county, not for a certain subset.”

The committee agreed to revisit the short-term rental controversy next month. He plans to invite the sheriff’s department and environmental services to the meeting next month.

About Jermaine Chase

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