About two dozen citizens showed up to Wednesday’s 5 p.m. Planning Commission meeting only to leave disappointed less than five minutes later.

The commission postponed discussing compromises made between the commission and the Short Term Rental Task Force on how to best regulate short-term rentals in Charleston.

Chairman William Gordon Greer cited the absence of two commission members as the main reason why a possible vote was deferred without warning.

“Would the commission be willing to discuss, briefly, any changes or tweaks that have been made to what was submitted?” asked one attendee.

“I’d rather not do that, we already deferred the item,” Greer said.

Members of the Planning Commission have repeatedly opined that the Short Term Rental Task Force’s proposals are far too strict. The Task Force’s 18 members, selected by Mayor Tecklenburg and City Council, first met in November 2016 in an effort to draft rules for the growing market.

Short-term rentals are technically illegal everywhere in Charleston, with the exception of certain areas in Cannonborough-Elliotborough. A Wednesday night search revealed at least 16 properties throughout the peninsula available for some type of booking (instant/room/whole-house) on the smartphone application AirBnB.

In a 7-2 vote on Dec. 4, the commission decided to get rid of a Task Force-proposed ban on whole-house rentals, according to audio of the meeting provided by the city. The commission also agreed to let homeowners rent out their homes for up to 72 days in a year, and to lift the requirement that a house be at least 50 years old in order to qualify for any kind of short-term rental license. That requirement, some say, would restrict the commercial activity of homeowners in places like West Ashley, James Island, and Wagener Terrace.

Concerns about gentrification, loss of character, and the rise of rents have led many cities to try to regulate the availability of short-term rentals. On Dec. 11, councilmembers in Seattle, Washington voted to require a license from anyone listing their home for short-term rental, according to The Seattle Times. Seattle City Council had previously passed legislation to tax short-term rental operators $14 a night for whole-house rentals and $8 a night for rooms.

The next meeting of the Charleston Planning Commission will not be until Jan. 31, 2018, pushing a debate that has lasted for the better part of this year well into 2018.

As always, any changes require final approval from City Council.

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