Overlay district

A map shows the College and University Overlay District, which the city created in 2014 saying it would prevent incompatible development from taking over neighborhoods surrounding Baylor.

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The Waco Plan Commission cast a wary eye Wednesday on Baylor University’s request to outlaw short-term rentals in multifamily properties around campus.

Baylor officials have said the restriction would protect off-campus student residents from any dangers of transient visitors who book apartments or condominiums through online platforms such as Airbnb and Homeaway.

In a work session, commission members said they would need to hear more from Baylor about those concerns, but several said the proposal would cast too wide a net.

Baylor has asked to bar multifamily short-term rentals in the College and University Overlay District, which encompasses several square miles. The district, which was created three years ago to protect campus-area neighborhoods from incompatible development, stretches from campus to the Highway 77 Circle and to Loop 340, with extensions into west downtown and the McLane Stadium neighborhood.

“I wouldn’t vote for it like it is now,” said commission member Joe Mayfield, calling the proposal a “shotgun approach.”

Commission Chairwoman LaRaine DuPuy said she would be interested to hear directly from Baylor about the federal Title IX and Clery Act issues that its officials say require them to monitor off-campus housing safety.

But DuPuy said she couldn’t support the boundaries as proposed, and suggested at least removing the downtown section from the off-limits area.

Baylor officials did not attend the work session but are expected when the commission considers the issue at its business session at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Waco Convention Center’s Bosque Theater.

A Baylor real estate official was part of a city committee that proposed new rules earlier this year on short-term rentals, including the creation of five categories of short-term rentals.

Plan Commission member David Sterling said that in the debate over short-term rentals he has heard assertions that they bring crime into neighborhoods, but with little evidence.

“There’s no data behind it,” Sterling said. “We’ve shown over and over that these are Baylor alumni, students and people coming to Magnolia. It’s actually the higher-end people we’re seeing.”

City staffers said only three multifamily properties in the Baylor area are permitted, and they would be allowed to continue doing business if Baylor’s proposal passes.

Jan Draving, who owns a short-term rental, attended the work session. She lives at the Cobblestone condominium complex on 11th Street, and last year she bought the unit next door to rent out. She said none of her guests have given anyone reason to fear for their safety.

“My guests are Baylor parents or people coming out to check out Baylor,” Draving said. “They’re great people.”

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