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Mount Pleasant Planning Committee advances short-term rental regulations

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Mount Pleasant Planning Committee has voted to recommend regulations regarding short-term rentals in the town, moving the draft ordinance (.pdf) to the Planning Commission.

“Everybody’s not going to do cartwheels out of that room, but we have to make the decision,” Councilmember Tom O’Rourke said at Monday’s Planning Committee meeting. “And I think what we have, based on a lot of good work, is something that’s pretty darn close. And it’s not like we can’t change anything later if it becomes a huge problem.”

Proposed regulations

Under the draft ordinance, anyone operating a short-term rental in Mount Pleasant would have to apply for a short-term rental permit and pay an annual registration fee, as well as obtain a business license.

Applicants would have to provide the number of bedrooms being rented, the number of parking spaces available and an affidavit signed by the property owner certifying that the property complies with town fire and building ordinances. The maximum occupancy of the rental unit would be two people per bedroom plus two additional people, and the property would have to have a parking spot for each rental bedroom.

Multifamily units would be prohibited from operating short-term rentals, as well as in any zoning district or neighborhood that specifically prohibits short-term rentals. Hosting parties, weddings or other such gatherings that would include more than the maximum overnight occupancy of the rental unit would also be prohibited.

The owner of the property would have to designate someone to operate the short-term rental, which could be themselves. The designated operator would be required to respond to the property within 60 minutes in case of emergency.

The number of short-term rentals in Mount Pleasant would be capped at 1% of all residential units in the town.

The penalty for violating the short-term rental ordinance would be a written warning on the first and second violation in a one-year period, a penalty of $500 on the third violation, and revocation or nonrenewal of the short-term rental permit on the fourth violation.

The permit may also be immediately revoked if the town planning director determines that the property isn’t being used in accordance with the permit issued or the advertisement for the short-term rental doesn’t include the town permit number and business license number.

The Planning Committee has been discussing and reviewing a short-term rental ordinance since November.

Public comments at Monday’s meeting — which mainly came from people who currently operate short-term rentals — were generally supportive of the proposed regulations, though many people had concerns about the cost of the annual permit registration. The annual short-term rental application fee would be $100 and the annual permit fee would be $400.

Michele Canon, principal planner for Mount Pleasant, said the fees were calculated in order to make sure the program is self-sufficient.

Canon said that a report from Short-Term Rental Helper found 350 short-term rental units in the town in March, up five from February. The proposed regulations would cap short-term rentals at 1% of all dwelling units in the town; Canon said the town has approximately 40,000 housing units, allowing about 400 short-term rentals.

Councilmember Bob Brimmer said he was concerned that the 1% cap could concentrate all of the short-term rentals in a single area of Mount Pleasant and advocated for removing that from the ordinance, but O’Rourke and Councilmember Joe Bustos, who chairs the Planning Committee, dissuaded him.

“My fear is that the 1% … if we do away with that, what will happen is anything above that 1% is all going to end up in the old part of town,” Bustos said.

Brimmer also asked town planning staff to strengthen the part of the ordinance related to violations and penalties. In the draft ordinance, all written warnings and violations within a single contract period would be considered a single violation, but Brimmer said he was concerned about a person who was renting for 29 days and had several violations during the month.

“The danger of that is that you could have a neighbor who’s got an axe to grind and call the cops every night on you and you could be violating, lose your business license,” Brimmer said. “So there needs to be some protection built into that, I guess, but I just want to make sure we’re not allowing someone to be there almost a month violating and the owner only gets dinged one time.”

Brimmer also suggested that the town only allow people to use their primary residence for short-term rentals to keep the industry local and avoid an outside individual or company from buying several residential properties for the sole purpose of short-term rentals. Brimmer’s suggestion prompted murmurs from the meeting’s attendees.

“If you live here, it should be fine,” one person said.

The Planning Committee’s recommendation for approval with Brimmer’s comments was passed unanimously, though Councilmember Guang Ming Whitley was not in attendance for the vote.

Consideration of the ordinance is not on the Planning Commission’s April agenda. After review by the commission, the ordinance must be approved by Town Council before it becomes part of the municipal code.

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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April 03, 2019

These new requirements (fees, permits, licenses, tax, violations) should apply equally to Long-term rentals as well. I would argue a long-term renter can degrade the neighborhood a lot worse than a visitor that is only staying for a few days. But its pretty obvious that our representatives are not really concerned about the potential affect on neighborhoods they are really just trying to look out for the hotel lobby which doesn't want the competition. They care about the corporations more that the residents which is sad. Next voting cycle we need to get an entirely fresh set of representatives, #replacethecouncil