“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.”
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.