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South Padre Island REALTORS® Uses Land Use Initiative to Overturn Short-Term Rental Registration Ordinance

December 2016

Located off the southernmost tip of Texas, South Padre Island is such a popular resort area that when a new Short-Term Rental Registration Ordinance was adopted by its City Council last year, it affected the vast majority of the island’s residential properties. Thanks to the REALTOR® Party’s Land Use Initiative, the South Padre Island Board of REALTORS® (SPIBOR) was able to overturn several provisions of the ordinance it found overly restrictive. In doing so, not only did the 120-member board succeed in protecting the rights of property owners, but it gained new respect from the city, which now looks to the REALTORS® as the voice of real estate in the community.

Lindsey Martinez, SPIBOR’s Association Executive, admits that as a relatively new board, she and her team were caught off-guard by the new ordinance; fortunately, their field rep from the Texas Association of REALTORS® (TAR) had their backs. “He was super-involved,” says Martinez, “and he clued us in to how detrimental these short-term rental ordinances could be.”  For her part, she quickly got up to speed by reading the standards established by the national and state associations, and with the guidance of the field rep and Government Affairs staff at TAR, applied to the REALTOR® Party for a Land Use Initiative review. 

SPIBOR submitted the approved ordinance to Robinson & Cole, the law firm retained by the National Association of REALTORS® to advise state and local associations on land use legislation.  Martinez was amazed by the speed and thoroughness of the response.  “We received the review back much sooner than expected, and it was perfectly clear and easy to follow,” she says. “Not only that, but they caught a number of issues that we hadn’t noticed.  For a small board like ours, with limited resources, the Land Use Initiative provided invaluable expertise.”

Armed with the legal review, SPIBOR met informally with members of the City Council, who were also impressed by the value of the Robinson & Cole comments. The situation wasn’t adversarial at all, notes Martinez, but more about opening lines of communication. “While we would have preferred to have had the entire ordinance repealed,” she says, “it wasn’t feasible at that point, so we focused on issues of safety and fees. They were very receptive.” In fact, reviewing the objections together, she recalls, the Council Members said about one after another, ‘Hey that wasn’t our intent!’

All eight members of SPIBOR’s board of directors joined Martinez at the City Council meeting on October 19, when the amendment proposing its requested changes to the ordinance was on the agenda.  Another REALTOR®, one of several who are property managers, spoke during the public comments. The amendment was easily approved, and the City Attorney commended the REALTORS® for their public-spirited assistance in what he called “clean-up and clarification” of the ordinance.

SPIBOR’s success in amending the Short-Term Rental Registration Ordinance benefits all the property owners of South Padre Island, including the many who live elsewhere and may not be paying attention to local politics and policies. The victory has also boosted the small association’s confidence in its own powers of political advocacy. In upholding NAR’s Core Standards, SPIBOR was already working hard to be the island’s voice for real estate by posting market statistics on social media and drafting articles for the local newspaper. But thanks to its involvement in revising the problematic ordinance, the city now regards the REALTORS® as valuable partners. “The day after the October City Council meeting, the City Manager, who is new in the position, invited us to meet with her; moving forward, she’ll be looking to us as a resource,” says Martinez, noting that Council Members also expressed the hope that SPIBOR would continue to be involved in city business.

“We have such great leaders at TAR, and we could not have done this without their hard work and guidance—or without the resources of the REALTOR® Party,” she says. 

To learn more about how the South Padre Island Board of REALTORS® used REALTOR® Party resources to protect the rights of rental property owners in its small resort community, contact Association Executive Lindsey Martinez at lindsey@spirealtors.com or 956-772-1940.

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