Is another North Texas city headed to the courthouse over short-term rentals?

This popular tourist city has been grappling with how to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO for more than two years.

Now that they’re moving toward requiring property owners who want to rent out their homes to apply for a specific use permit, a new group has emerged saying that won’t work.

A nonprofit group calling itself START (or Short-term Accommodations for Residents & Tourism) wants to promote “neighborhood-friendly” short-term rentals and a “seamless integration” within Arlington. A short-term rental is defined the renting out a room or residence for 30 days or less.

“It is a new economy,” said Brad Herbert, who has two short-term rentals in Arlington. “We feel that the best way is not to have a city behind the times. We want them to embrace it.”

The Arlington City Council discussed short-term rentals at its Tuesday afternoon meeting, debating issues like parking regulations, maximum occupancy levels and density in neighborhoods. The city has 451 active short-term rental listings with 357 in single-family homes. Of those, 252 were renting out the entire single-family home.

The city plans to discuss new regulations again at its in Jan. 8 meeting. If the council can agree on a framework on those rules, it will first go to the planning and zoning commission for a public hearing before coming back to the City Council.

“Our staff, our council members and myself will continue to meet with citizens that want to talk,” said Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams.

Yet Herbert warns the city is likely to face a legal challenge if it eventually approves the specific use permit proposal.

“There have been numerous legal aspects that have been brought to light for the current course,” Herbert said. “When we look at Grapevine, an injunction has been placed on their ban. It is a crush on personal property rights.”

In November, a state district judge ordered Grapevine to stop enforcing its short-term rental ban. Hurst is also moving toward a short-term rental ban with another vote scheduled on Tuesday. Williams said Arlington has no plans to pursue a ban.

Herbert argues that short-term rentals will continue despite whatever regulations the city puts in place. Many cities technically don’t allow short-term rentals but still have plenty in their city.

“If the city makes it way too difficult for short-term rentals, you’ll drive them underground,” Herbert said.

But former Arlington City Council member Charlie Parker said council members should still pursue an outright ban. He represented the north side of Arlington, which has the most short-term rentals in the city,

“Other cities have banned them and been successful,” Parker said. “Why can’t Arlington?”

Parker argues that the specific-use permit plan will ultimately let down the neighborhoods because it will require residents to attend every short-term rental hearing to keep them out of their neighborhoods. He also said the city has shown they cannot enforce the specific use permit rules within specified boundaries.

Herbert, a former Arlington resident who lives in Granbury, said he has renovated two homes — one in the Woodbrook Division, the small isolated neighborhood next to AT&T Stadium — and another in Central Arlington. In one of those instances, he said he turned a “hoarder house” and into a neighborhood asset.

‘We want to partner with the city,” Herbert said. “We’ve had a number of discussions with the city at this point and the current specific use permit they’re trying to formulate is not an appropriate use.”

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Bill Hanna is an award-winning reporter who has covered just about every beat at the Star-Telegram. He currently covers Arlington but also writes about a variety of subjects including weather, wildlife, traffic and health.