The Waco Plan Commission on Tuesday recommended a special permit for a controversial vacation rental at 404 Baker Lane, but a petition from Cameron Park-area neighbors could mean a tougher fight ahead at Waco City Council.
The commission voted 10-0 to grant real estate investor Kristi Bass a one-year “temporary residential rental unit” permit for the three-acre property, which includes a house, a garage apartment and two cottages.
It was among nine permit applications that the commission approved Tuesday for temporary rental units or bed-and-breakfast homestays. The city has been scrambling to permit online vacation rentals that have become popular locally in the wake of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”
But neighbors of the Baker Lane property said making it a vacation rental would bring a commercial element that would compromise the tranquil character of the neighborhood. More than 30 have signed a petition against the permit, which could trigger a requirement for the city council to have a supermajority to approve the permit.
About 20 neighborhood opponents showed up to protest the application.
“A line needs to be drawn,” said Trent Dougherty, next-door neighbor to the property and president of Cameron Park Neighborhood Association.
Dougherty said he is concerned the neighborhood is already getting too many online rentals, and the city should at least say no to an investment property with multiple units.
Henry Wright, another next-door neighbor, said neighbors aren’t just concerned about traffic, parking and noise but about a lack of residential stability.
“We want neighbors,” Wright said. “We’d love for someone to move in and be part of a fun and wonderful group of people.”
Bass, the property owner, said she amended her application to soothe neighbors’ concerns. Under the revised permit, the main house could not be used for a short-term rental. The other units could be rented only when the owner or live-in caretaker is present.
She also revised the application so parking would be limited to six guest cars, and events would be prohibited.
Bass said she already has rented the main house to a family and may ultimately live there herself.
Commission members said they are concerned about being consistent in voting on temporary residential rental unit permits.
Commission Chairwoman LaRaine DuPuy said the city has approved 13 permits for temporary residential rental units and bed-and-breakfast homestays over the last few years and has never turned one down.
Commission member Joe Mayfield said he sympathizes with the neighbors, but he didn’t see a strong reason to turn down the permit.
“I can’t take issue with any of what’s been said tonight,” Mayfield said. “All of it is valid and all of it could be applied to all nine permits. Everyone is proud of their neighborhood. If I was going to vote against this permit, I’d have to vote against every permit we have.”
Commission member Reggie Richardson said the one-year renewal requirement on the permit gives the neighborhood protection.
Dougherty said neighbors would continue to fight the application as it heads to Waco City Council for approval Nov. 15.
The commission on Tuesday also approved the following applicants for temporary residential rentals:
David Morrow and Marla Hendricks, 1403 N. Fifth St.
Steve and Tricia Wood, 918 Chapel View Drive
Melissa Mullins and Albert Zertuche, 1112 Clay Ave.
Refugio Martinez, 726 N. 15th St.
Magnolia Vacation Rentals LLC, 3601 Hillcrest Drive
MLW Real Estate LLC, 4221 Hubby Ave.
Joshua and Jill Barrett, 2517 Wooded Acres Drive
Also, Deanna Leach was approved for a bed-and-breakfast homestay at 2921 Rickert Drive. The homestay permit requires the owner to live onsite.
The properties on North Fifth Street and Wooded Acres were renovated on “Fixer Upper.”