Charleston City Council gave a final reading to an ordinance creating a short-term Rental Overlay District in the city.
The ordinance was passed unanimously – significant, as the Planning Commission rejected it in its original form. Because of this rejection, at least 75 percent of the council needed to approve the measure for it to pass.
The ordinance before the Planning Commission allowed short-term rentals in commercially zoned districts anywhere in the City. Council voted to limit the overlay to commercially zones areas only in Elliottborough and Cannonborough. The overlay can be seen here.
It was agreed that the ordinance would be reviewed in six months.
Details of the proposed ordinance have been discussed in recent council meetings.
Suffice to say that the city’s purpose in creating the ordinance was twofold: to assist the rehabilitation of large and neglected buildings in Elliottborough and Cannonborough; and to provide low-cost short-term rental opportunities to friends and relatives of students at the College of Charleston and of patients at the City’s hospitals.
There were other restrictions beyond geographical, as well. All rental units must have full kitchen and bathroom facilities, no more than nine units are to be allowed on any site, and parking is to be designated as per City code.
It should be noted that short-term rentals – less than 30 days – are allowed in the city only in the Accommodation Overlay Zone, or at bed and breakfasts in the Historic District. The latter have to meet strict conditions in relation to parking, facilities and the number of units.
Council members Gary White Jr. and Aubry Alexander have expressed concern with the new ordinance. It was not that they saw an adverse impact, but whether such an ordinance was possible.
There were a number of citizens that spoke in favor of the new ordinance. Most were architects, developers or residents of the two boroughs.
All touted the benefits – the resuscitation of old buildings, the displacement of college students (with the implication that they made little contribution to the fabric of the community), and the likely reduction in on-street parking pressure.
Only one citizen spoke against the ordinance stating that creating rental properties in a residential area was taking away from the community.
Tim Keane, director of Planning, Preservation and Sustainability, told the city council that the staff had spent considerable time shaping the ordinance.
He said studies had been made of a number of cities in the US where short-term rentals had been permitted. It seemed that the policies had failed when the rentals had been massed, and in residential areas. What the city was proposing would avoid the mistakes made by others.
Marc Knapp is a contractor specializing in heavy underground utilities and the owner of Charleston Site Utilities.