- Belinda McDonnell
Let's Work Together to Raise the Bar
My husband and I found ourselves fortunate enough to buy a home in Fredericksburg in 2016. It was an easy decision. We had been to Fredericksburg many times over the years. My grandparents first brought me to Fredericksburg in the 60’s. Texas farmers and ranchers from the high plains, they wanted to buy peaches, picnic on the Pedernales and see where the president lived. The little girl in me still smiles every time I drive down Ranch Road 1 or buy peaches at one of our area fruit stands just thinking about that first visit to Fredericksburg and how fortunate I am now to call it home.
In the decades since the 60’s, Fredericksburg has seen quite a transformation. That transformation hasn’t been by accident. It has taken care, planning, foresight and nurturing by our city, community leaders, and convention and visitor’s bureau. The results are evident with amenities abounding, a thriving Main Street, and a wide variety of outdoor experiences to enjoy. The agricultural heritage that was and is important for much of Texas still prospers here. We have much to be thankful for.
One of the many unique things about Fredericksburg are the original settlers’ Sunday houses. Quite a few still stand, converted to vacation homes decades before the term “home sharing” came into being. My grandfather’s family had a similar situation in another Texas town. As WWI ebbed, farming communities fell on hard times. My grandfather’s formal education ended before he turned ten so he could help work the family farm. His parents turned their city home into a boarding house. Having the option to change their home’s use enabled their family to sustain themselves in challenging times.
While today’s challenges may be different from the last century’s Texans remain firm believers in property rights. Today, in Fredericksburg, we have the option of how we use our homes, much like my great grandparents did. Most are personal residences for their owners, some leased as traditional long-term rentals. Others are second homes for a few lucky individuals. Some have chosen the option of owning short term rentals. Much of this depends on what stage of life the owner is in and their current economic needs and desires. As property owners, we have the option to determine how to use our residential property as long as we follow and abide by city ordinances.
When it comes to following city ordinances, we can all do better. Even though only 7% of residential properties in Fredericksburg are STRs, a single poorly managed rental can make all STRs look bad. I know this from experience as I personally live across the street from two STRs. One of them is quite well managed; the other, well, isn’t. The contrast between the two is significant. As the owner of two guest homes, my husband and I know that it takes real effort to properly manage a rental. The vast majority of STR owners here make that effort, as is evidenced by the fact that recently less than 1% of permitted STRs in Fredericksburg have received nuisance violations.
This summer I was fortunate to find a group of like-minded STR owners. We began working collectively to determine how we could help our community by improving self-standards for STRs. We are residents, hosts and property managers. We value both the responsibility we have as owners to contribute to the community and the intrinsic property rights that all homeowners share – including the option to rent them. One of our goals is to develop and share best practices for STR operators. To that end we have developed the website www.fbgtxstra.com . Here STR owners, managers, residents and others can view information such as our guidebook on fostering good relations with neighbors, and find actionable plans for noise management, parking management and other subjects.
In just two months, the Fredericksburg STR Alliance has grown to over three hundred and fifty members and become alliance members with multiple national organizations that lead the way in setting best practices for the industry. We are working proactively with the city to make a positive difference in our community. The economic impact of STRs in Fredericksburg makes the difference between a declining community and a vibrant one, and I’m grateful that properties like ours make such a positive contribution to our town. We invite every STR owner, manager and related business to join us. Let’s raise the bar together to ensure that everyone continues to protect and enjoy the property rights we have today and well into the future.