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Texas Tells Presidio County Hotels and Short-term Rentals Can’t Stay Closed

The Presidio County Courthouse in downtown Marfa. (Marfa Public Radio)

By Diana Nguyen

Less than a day after Presidio County moved to restrict hotels and short-term rentals from opening their doors, County Judge Cinderela Guevara received notice Friday from Gov. Greg Abbott's office that the measures passed by Presidio County Commissioners Court at an emergency meeting were more restrictive than his statewide orders, and are illegal.

The decision came down before the ink had time to dry on the ordinance that extended limits on the rental of hotels and short-term rentals to only essential workers through May 15.

Lodging businesses were first ordered to cease operations, with few exceptions, about a month ago. The tri-county effort came during the busiest time for tourism in the region. At the time, officials said the measures were intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the Big Bend region, which has limited access to healthcare.

In a statement, Commissioner Brenda Bentley, who made the motion to extend the limitations, said, "My intention was never to put Presidio County at odds with the Governor’s Office, but to protect our communities for as long as was within my power to do so."

Bentley added when she voted, the governor's executive order was unclear on the county's authority to regulate lodging businesses.

“I am now aware that I was not permitted to make the decision that I put forward... Although I wish there was more I could do, they are telling us that there is not."

Hotels, motels, short-term rentals in RV parks may now open without occupancy limits in Presidio County. Neighboring Brewster and Jeff Davis Counties earlier this week allowed lodging businesses to reopen without occupancy limitations.

The decision from the governor's office also supersedes Marfa's order extending limits to lodging businesses to essential workers.

Find the latest decision here:

Diana Nguyen is a reporter for Marfa Public Radio.