Shelby Del Vecchio
The Grand Bohemian Hotel at the corner of Meeting and Wentworth streets
The vote on a new ordinance governing hotel development on the peninsula was deferred by Charleston City Council Tuesday night, but the proposed rules could have a significant impact on the future of downtown accommodations.
As currently written, the ordinance creates greater limits for hotels that would displace housing, office space, and more than 25 percent of ground floor retail space on streets mainly fronted by shops. The city’s Board of Zoning Appeals would also be required to consider the amount of affordable housing units affected by a proposed development and whether requirements should be set for maintaining a minimum percentage of affordable units on a property.
Jacob Lindsey with the city’s Planning Department said the proposed ordinance would also prohibit developers from skirting the 50-room limit on projects downtown. For example, Lindsey said that under the current rules developers hoping to construct a 100-room hotel can simply build two 50-room developments side by side.
The proposal would also require the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals to assess any new project based on its long-term plans for on- or off-site parking for employees and ability to provide free transit passes or incentives to encourage employees to use public transportation. New hotels with more than 50 rooms located outside of the immediate downtown area would also be asked to provide shuttle services to and from the historic district.
The outline for the proposed ordinance comes from the findings of the city’s recent 90-day hotel study, conducted by the Planning Department, traffic engineers, and the College of Charleston Office of Tourism Analysis. The study’s initial finding were reported last month, at which time Lindsey said there were 4,930 hotel rooms existing or under construction on the peninsula, with an additional 731 rooms recently gaining approval. More than 1,300 rooms are expected to be added over the next four years.
After this week’s deferral, City Council is expected to discuss the proposed changes in July.