The city defines STRs as “residential properties available for rent for guest lodging for a period ranging from one to 29 days,” assistant city manager Dana Burghdoff said.
Currently, Fort Worth does not allow any STRs to operate within residential zoning districts, she explained, however, the city knows they are operating there illegally.
Code compliance can only investigate an STR based on a complaint, not just from a listing or booking, Burghdoff added.
Burghdoff stated that Fort Worth had several goals in mind for its regulations. They include preserving residential quality, ensuring the health and safety of guests and residents, and preserving the residential housing supply.
Homeowners’ rights to use their properties as they see fit was missing from the list of goals.
Fort Worth has proposed four options for regulating STRs.
Option one is to keep the current ordinance and require anyone wishing to operate an STR to pursue a zoning change.
Option two is to treat STRs as a bed and breakfast home requiring a conditional use permit. There is already an ordinance for bed and breakfast homes within the city that would be applied to STRs.
Option three would allow STRs in all residential districts if they are owner-occupied. They would still need to apply for a conditional use permit, which requires a hearing and notification of nearby property owners so they can provide feedback. If the STR is investor-owned, it would only be allowed in multi-family residential districts by conditional use permit. Additionally, the city would likely include a density limit for how many STRs could exist in an area.
Option four would allow owner-occupied STRs to exist “by right” in the city as long as they had fewer than 30 nights booked per year.
Dozens of residents spoke at the public engagement meeting. Most supported the first option, to prohibit STRs from residential zoning areas. They raised issues about decreasing home values, a housing shortage, and increased crime.
Those who support allowing STRs in residential areas noted that they would support reasonable regulations and that problematic STRs are the minority. Resident Anita Jones-Smith lost her job in 2020 and started an STR business for traveling professionals. She urged the city to honor her “hard work, dedication, and hospitality.”
According to deputy city attorney Melinda Ramos, there are two lines of case law regarding STRs. One line involves homeowner association restrictions on STRs. Under the deed restrictions in that case, Ramos explained, STRs were residential and could not be limited.
The other line of cases that Fort Worth is watching closely involve the “police power” of municipalities to enforce STR ordinances. The City of Grapevine and the City of Arlington are involved in cases at the Texas appellate court level.
Grapevine’s ordinance banned STRs within the city. The Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth found that the city’s zoning ordinance allowed STRs as a residential use and that the homeowners made viable claims about their rights under the Texas Constitution.
The case is currently being appealed to the Texas Supreme Court by the City of Grapevine.
The City of Arlington regulated STRs but did not ban them outright. The Second Court of Appeals allowed the city to continue its enforcement of its STR regulations.
“The Zoning Ordinance’s prohibition against STRs outside the STR Zone and medium-to-high-density residential areas is rationally related to legitimate governmental interests,” the opinion stated.
The homeowners have also appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Kim Roberts is a reporter for the Texan in the DFW metroplex area where she has lived for over twenty years. She has a Juris Doctor from Baylor University Law School and a Bachelor's in government from Angelo State University. In her free time, Kim home schools her daughter and coaches high school extemporaneous speaking and apologetics. She has been happily married to her husband for 23 years, has three wonderful children, and two dogs.