City Council delays changes to short-term rental law, sends them to staff for review

City staff began enforcing the recently-passed ordinance on July 10

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The Cannonborough-Elliottborough neighborhood was one of the first to experiment with short-term rentals in Charleston - GOOGLE STREET VIEW
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  • The Cannonborough-Elliottborough neighborhood was one of the first to experiment with short-term rentals in Charleston
Charleston City Council voted to delay proposed changes to the city's six-month-old short term rental law on Tuesday after dozens of residents lined up for speeches that recalled the debate leading up to the law's passage in April.

In a 10-3 vote, Council voted to send the proposed changes to the city's legal and planning staff for review. Staff will also review the makeup of the city's Short Term Rental Task Force, whose recommendations informed much of the law restricting the properties that are allowed on services like Airbnb and HomeAway.

Among the draft amendment's biggest shake-ups was a strike down of the requirement that property owners stay with their guests overnight.



"Let us remember that when the cat is away the mice will play," said one resident who runs a short-term rental in the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood, echoing fears of rowdy party houses. "People think they can own the place."

The wording requiring homes in Zone 1, the city's Old and Historic district, to be individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places to quality for a short-term rental permit was also eyed for removal.

"I think that’s one of the weakest parts of the ordinance, because if it has a legal challenge, I don’t think it would stand," said Councilmember Keith Waring, who represents West Ashley.

He argued that the city has no control over the federal listing, which is managed by the National Park Service.

At a meeting last month, city planner Jacob Lindsey asked Council for more time to enforce the law and test its effects on the community.

"We're just really beginning the process, but it’s working," Lindsey said. "With that said, what we’d like to ask of you, is giving staff more time to continue to roll the process out."

Changes to parking requirements were also considered. Namely, the possibility of allowing nearby lots and garages to satisfy off-street parking requirements for downtown rentals.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said he did not want to change the current ordinance and "open the floodgates" that could lead to less affordable housing stock. Councilmember Gary White, who represents Daniel Island and parts of downtown, said he did not want to move too fast.

Forty people signed up to speak during the meeting, including preservation-minded neighborhood group leaders and members of the Short Term Rental Task Force.

"This idea that we can't continue to test it and we can’t continue to strengthen it simultaneously, I respectfully disagree," Waring said after bringing up a woman who rents out a vacant, inherited family property on James Island to pay for upgrades and renovations. The case has been repeatedly cited by Council members in short-term rental discussions.

Mayor Tecklenburg and Councilmembers Seekings and Mitchell voted against sending the changes to staff for evaluation.

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