City Manager

Campaign aims to make CS a holiday destination

By Aubrey Nettles, Economic Development Manager

Many people see visions of festive winter wonderlands and Santa loading his sleigh at the North Pole when they think of Christmas.

That may be about to change.

Visit College Station, in partnership with Santa’s Wonderland, wants to make our community THE destination for holiday celebrations.

We are introducing Christmas in College Station, a series of holiday events and specials throughout the city. The goal is to attract visitors who stay overnight, providing a significant boost to our local economy. The partnership encourages Santa’s Wonderland visitors to extend their stay in College Station to enjoy festive events and cheerful specials.

More than 300,000 visitors from across the nation visit Santa’s Wonderland each year, and more are on the way thanks to a breathtaking expansion to what was already an unmatched holiday destination.

Making its debut in 2020 is Illuminations Ice Arena, the region’s premier outdoor ice skating venue. Guests can glide on a sheet of real ice surrounded by thousands of holiday lights under the bright Texas stars. Other new attractions include Santa’s Farm and a second Trail of Lights, walkable elements featuring family-friendly adventures, hand-crafted Texas light displays, tunnels, and even a live nativity scene.

And Christmas in College Station isn’t just for visitors — residents and area businesses can join in the fun, too!

HOLIDAY SPECIALS

We encourage College Station businesses to create a holiday special for a day, weekend, week, or entire season (Nov. 20-Dec. 31). What you do is up to you. The deadline to submit your holiday special is Monday, Nov. 2. Be sure to deck the halls of your establishment to create an ultimate Christmas experience!

PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES

Create unique photo booths for the public to capture the perfect holiday photo. The Arts Council of Brazos Valley will create a map highlighting the picture-perfect locations.

HOLIDAY ARTISAN MARKET VENDORS

If you’re an artisan or curator, reserve your spot at the Holiday Artisan Market at Century Square from noon-4 p.m. on Dec. 20. The registration fee is $25 and includes tables, chairs, linens, and signage. Spots are limited, so reserve yours today.

SANTA-CERTIFIED HOTELS

Do you have family or friends coming to town for the holidays and don’t have enough room at your place? Check out the deals at our Santa-Certified Hotels.

EVENTS

Christmas in College Station’s offerings include Howdy Holly-Days at Northgate, the Holiday Artisan Market at Century Square, the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Pops concert, For King & Country’s A Drummer Boy Drive-In Live: “The Christmas Tour” at Reed Arena, the city’s traditional Christmas in the Park, and much more.

Are you planning a holiday event that will be open to the public? Add it to our campaign!

Stay updated on all the holiday events and specials at ChristmasInCS.com.


About the Blogger

Aubrey Nettles is in her second year as the city’s Economic Development Manager. She also served four years as the special projects coordinator in the City Manager’s Office. Before coming to College Station, she was the executive assistant to the Fort Bend County Commission and was a management analyst for Harris County. A native of Smithville, Aubrey earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Houston in 2012 and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Texas A&M in 2010.  


 

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How to avoid penalties at your game day gathering

By Barbara Moore, Assistant to the City Manager

Although COVID-19 continues to impact college towns across the country, many have found a glimmer of economic hope with the return of home football games.  Texas A&M’s season begins this week and will bring much-needed relief to local businesses, despite the limited number of fans allowed at Kyle Field.

While tailgating may look a bit different, opportunities exist to help celebrate the Aggies in pre-game style.

The vast majority of our businesses, residents, and students are doing their best to follow COVID-19 guidelines. But there are a few key things to remember to have a fun, safe, and compliant game day experience.

Restaurants, outdoor seating, and alcohol

Recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott increased restaurant capacity to 75% of usual occupancy. Restaurants and other commercial entities can have temporary outdoor seating but must have enough parking for their customers. Fire lanes also must remain open.

Restaurants and other businesses with liquor licenses may serve alcohol in outdoor seating areas, but patrons cannot leave the enclosed area with alcohol. If you have questions about on-premise alcohol requirements, contact the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s Bryan office at 979-260-8222 or visit tabc.texas.gov.

Tailgating and outdoor gatherings

Businesses and restaurants providing outdoor seating don’t need the mayor’s approval of more than 10 people for an outdoor gathering. However, the requirement still applies to other outdoor get-togethers, such as tailgate parties, ring dunk celebrations, birthday parties, and more. 

To request the mayor’s approval for gatherings of more than 10, apply at cstx.gov/covid19.

Many College Station parks have pavilions available for rent. To reserve a pavilion, contact the Parks & Recreation Department at 979-764-3486. You’ll still need the mayor’s approval for outdoor events with 10 or more people.

Special events

In some cases, a planned gathering may be large enough to require a special event permit. A special event is defined as:

… a temporary event, gathering or organized activity held outside the confines of a building or permanent structure, including, but not limited to, meetings, entertainment, performances, shows, exhibitions, street fairs, rallies, races, concerts, carnivals, or amusements held on city-owned or private property and sponsored by an applicant who is expected to draw more than 200 attendees.

You need to apply for a special events permit at least 30 days before your event.

Physical distancing

The Texas Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend businesses continue practicing COVID-19 protocols, including physical distancing among customers whenever possible.

Game days are critical to our community’s success, and we share your excitement about the return of Aggie football. With your help, we’ll host all our home games and welcome visitors to experience College Station while remaining safe and healthy.

If you have questions about COVID-19 requirements for businesses, tailgating, or other group gatherings, contact me at 979-764-6327.

Gig ‘em, Aggies!

 


About the Blogger

Barbara Moore is in her 14th year with the City of College Station and her second as assistant to the city manager. Barbara served 12 years as neighborhood services coordinator. She previously was the executive director of Family Outreach of Bryan/College Station and was the director of faith-based relations for the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity. Barbara is a 1992 graduate of Jackson State and earned her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington in 1996.


 

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How to register your short-term rental housing

By Brian Piscacek, Assistant to the City Manager

In College Station, nothing matches the excitement of the arrival of football season. Especially after all we’ve been through in 2020.

If you rent your home or other property for Aggie game day weekends — or for any other reason — you want to do it the right way. Starting this year, that means registering your short-term rental with the City of College Station. The ordinance goes into effect on Oct. 1.

A short-term rental is a residential unit that’s rented out for fewer than 30 consecutive days. It includes single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, multifamily units, and manufactured homes.

If you are a short-term rental operator, you must have a valid permit and collect and remit hotel occupancy taxes monthly. The permit is valid for one year from the date of issuance and must be renewed each year. The permit is $100, and the required inspection is an additional $100. The annual renewal is $75.

In addition to the permit and hotel taxes, the ordinance requires STR operators to:

  • Provide an informational brochure to guests that includes pertinent neighborhood information, how to contact the operator, and local emergency numbers.
  • Equip the dwelling with working life safety equipment such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors if using gas/propane, and one fire extinguisher per floor.
  • Maintain the unit in compliance with applicable city codes.

How to Apply for a Permit

STEP 1

Request access to the online permitting system by emailing STR@cstx.gov with your name, permanent (i.e., your homestead property) address, email address, and phone number. You must receive a login and password before applying online.

STEP 2

Know your STR type. The ordinance permits three categories of STRs related to zoning. To identify your zoning, go to the city’s interactive map, click the layer icon on the upper right, then select “Zoning” from the options.

  • Short-Term Rental I is a bed and breakfast facility located in a residential zoning district. They have specific rules that align with our Unified Development Ordinance for B&B properties, including requirements that the unit is the proprietor’s permanent residence, no more than four unrelated may occupy overnight, and no more than one meal is served daily. If your STR is not a bed and breakfast, you are not an STR I.
  • Short-Term Rental II is an owner-occupied unit in a residential zoning district of either General Suburban (GS), Restricted Suburban (RS), or Wellborn Restricted Suburban (WRS). These are located in what you think of as a typical single-family neighborhood. Are you in one of these zoning districts? Do you owner-occupy the residence? If so, this is your category. If the unit you’re operating as a short-term rental is an accessory dwelling on the property — such as a mother-in-law suite or a garage apartment — you’re required to be on-site during the rental.
  • Short-Term Rental III is a short-term rental in a residential zoning district other than General Suburban, Restricted Suburban, or Wellborn Restricted Suburban. It includes Rural (R), Estate (E), Wellborn Estate (WE), Townhouse (T), Duplex (D), Multifamily (MF), Mixed-Use (MU), and Manufactured Home (MHP). These units may be owner-occupied or non-owner-occupied.

Non-Owner Occupied STRs: If you’ve been operating the unit as an STR but don’t live there, the ordinance includes a grandfathering provision, and you may apply for a permit until Nov. 27. After that, no application for non-owner-occupied units in GS, RS, or WRS zoning will be considered. You must demonstrate that the unit has been used as a short-term rental by providing evidence that you’ve remitted hotel occupancy taxes.

To illustrate continuous use, proof of tax remittance must cover a period of at least six of the last 12 — or 12 of the last 24 — months immediately preceding October. If you have not remitted those taxes, you may do so through Avenu Insights with the applicable penalties for late filings. Please include evidence of your filings and payments when you apply for the STR permit.

Planned Development Districts: If your property is located in a Planned Development District (PDD), refer to the base zoning. Plans submitted with at PDD designation include a list of land uses that align with zoning districts. For assistance, contact Planning & Development Services at 979-764-3570.

STEP 3

Apply online. Include the proper documentation: homestead exemption (if required), completed Guest Information Guide, and hotel occupancy tax evidence, if applicable.

STEP 4

When notified, schedule your Life Safety Inspection to ensure your STR meets the ordinance’s life safety requirements. For most STRs, inspections are also required for renewal.

STEP 5

Receive your permit when your application is approved. Please include your permit number in your advertisements and internet booking sites.

STEP 6

Register with Avenu Insights to set up your hotel occupancy tax remittance and report filing. The ordinance requires that Hotel Occupancy Taxes be assessed and collected by short-term rental operators. The Code of Ordinances authorizes a hotel occupancy tax equal to 7% of the occupant’s consideration where the cost of occupancy is at least $2 per day.

On the last business day of the month after the month of collection, entities required to collect the tax must file a report and remit the appropriate amount. Failure to submit the report and remit payment is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and a penalty of 15% of the tax due for every 30 days that the report isn’t filed or the payment isn’t made.

For more information on hotel occupancy taxes, go to our STR webpage.

If you have additional questions about short-term rentals, contact Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363 or str@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Brian Piscacek has been with the City of College Station since 2012 and has served as assistant to the city manager for special projects since early 2019. He was previously a community development analyst. Before coming to College Station, Brian worked for Texas Tech and the North & East Lubbock Community Development Corporation. He earned bachelor’s (2007, Political Science/History) and master’s (2009, Public Administration) degrees from Tech.


 

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Posting your own “No Parking” sign isn’t a solution

By Esmeralda, Casas, Neighborhood and Community Relations Coordinator

Have you ever returned home to your nice, quiet neighborhood to find an unfamiliar vehicle parked on the street in front of your house? Regardless of whether the car belongs to a neighbor or one of their guests, you find it inconsiderate and annoying.

You call the police and the city’s code enforcement department, but they both tell you that for them to take any action, the vehicle must be blocking a driveway, facing traffic, or be otherwise improperly parked. Neither your neighbor nor his guest has violated the law.

You’re a little miffed to discover you have no legal entitlement to public parking spaces in front of your house. While it may be a nuisance when someone else parks there, it’s not against the law.

In frustration, you post an official-looking sign near your curb. The words “No Parking” in big, red letters are clear for everyone to see.

Problem solved? Not by a long shot.

State law prohibits you from placing or trying to enforce traffic-directing signs on public streets. That means your neighbor hasn’t broken the law – you have. Only city employees can legally install such signs.

If you think that scenario doesn’t happen, think again. We’ve seen a significant rise in residents posting unauthorized signs, especially no parking signs.

The bottom line is that streets maintained by the city are for public use. Unless an authorized sign states otherwise, they are available for anyone to park along.

That doesn’t mean the problem has no solution. The most effective course of action is to have a friendly talk with your neighbor. In most cases, you can work something out.

To report unauthorized signs or improperly parked vehicles, contact Code Enforcement at 979-764-6363 or submit your concern to SeeClickFix.

 


About the Blogger

Esmeralda Casas is in her first year as the city’s neighborhood and community relations coordinator. She previously served as an education and outreach specialist with the Sexual Assualt Resource Center and as the communications coordinator for The Salvation Army of Bryan/College Station. A Rio Grande Valley native, Esmeralda earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&M in 2016.


 

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City manager to be deployed with Navy Reserve

City Manager Bryan Woods sent this message to city employees Monday night:

COCS Team,

We came together last Veterans Day to recognize this organization’s commitment to not only employing veterans but also to how our civilians willingly take on additional duties to allow coworkers to serve their country. That day and the service and support that are at the core of our organization are foremost in my mind as I write this message to you.

Some of you may know that in addition to getting to serve alongside you in this great organization, I’m an officer in the United States Navy Reserve. Late in 2019, I was informed I’d be recalled to active duty to mobilize with my unit. While the dates of my departure and return are fluid, I can tell you that I’ll be leaving in the next few months for training and won’t return until sometime in early 2021. The City Council and the Executive Management Team have been made aware and I can’t say enough about how supportive everyone has been.  I’d certainly not have chosen to deploy less than two years after joining you here, but I’m proud to get to serve our community in another way and do the job that I’ve been trained for.

My main goal in sending this email is to make sure you hear this from me prior to it becoming public information and to assure you that we’ll continue to strategically and deliberately transition my duties to the others in the City Manager’s Office before my departure.  I truly believe we run this organization as a team and I’m excited to see the outstanding things you’ll accomplish in my absence.

This city and our organization couldn’t be more fortunate than to have the leadership we do, and I’m confident it will shine in the months to come.  We’re also in a time of transition with a search for a new fire chief underway, a search for a new police chief beginning soon, and the opportunity to fill the vacant assistant city manager position.  I intend for these key personnel to be selected before I leave and that they will add to the leadership capacity we have as an organization.  As I’m able, I’ll continue to be engaged with the Council, Deputy City Manager Jeff Capps, Assistant City Manager Jeff Kersten, the CMO, and the rest of the organization to assist in any way I can, even after I’ve left for duty.

In closing, I again thank the Council, the community, and all of you for your support as I prepare for my deployment.  I know others will step up to take on additional responsibilities in my absence, and I’m truly grateful for the support this organization and community provides for service members and veterans.

I look forward to pushing towards numerous organizational accomplishments in the next few months and returning to work with you again soon.

One City, One Team.

Respectfully,

Bryan C. Woods, City Manager

– Public Communications Office

 


Discussion about short-term rentals set for Nov. 18

By Brian Piscacek, Assistant to the City Manager

The City of College Station invites residents to join city staff on Monday, Nov. 18, for a discussion about short-term housing rentals.

The informal gathering will be at 6:30 p.m. at the CSU Meeting and Training Facility at 1603 Graham Road. We’ll also serve light refreshments.

The idea of homeowners renting out their homes has evolved through online platforms such as Airbnb and expanded in College Station with the demand created by Aggie football weekends. The recent growth of short-term rentals across the nation has been dramatic, with Airbnb alone logging a half-million transactions last year in Texas.

Our discussion includes an overview of the short-term rental model and its impact on our community. We’ll address current conditions, solutions adopted by other municipalities, and elements of a prospective ordinance.

We’d like to hear not only from residents, but also real estate professionals, lodging operators, and short-term rental hosts. Elected and appointed city officials may be in attendance, but city staff will lead the activities, including small group discussions.

For more information, contact me at bpiscacek@cstx.gov.

 


About the Blogger

Brian Piscacek has been with the City of College Station since 2012 and has served as assistant to the city manager for special projects since early 2019. He was previously a community development analyst. Before coming to College Station, Brian worked for Texas Tech and the North & East Lubbock Community Development Corporation. He earned bachelor’s (2007, Political Science/History) and master’s (2009, Public Administration) degrees from Tech.


 

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