The city’s Planning Commission said that properties outside of the Old and Historic districts must only be five years old to qualify for a short-term rental license in a Wednesday night meeting.

A 60-person, standing-room-only crowd crammed into the room as resident after resident voiced their concerns with, or support of, the Short-Term Rental ordinance amended on Dec. 13.

The commission, made up of people familiar with the real estate and land market in Charleston, has debated the touchy subject of short-term rentals in at least five meetings. City Council established a Short-Term Rental Task Force in November 2016 to make recommendations. The commission significantly lessened the task force’s restrictions before agreeing to send them to City Council for final approval last night.

“It’s been long enough, the task force looked a this for a year, they came up with recommendations, they’ve been before y’all a few times,” said Mayor John Tecklenburg during the citizen participation period. “Again, I would just ask you to please agree on what you can and send it our way.”

In the draft sent to Council, an applicant for a residential short-term rental license needs to provide the city with an application fee, floor plans showing which rooms they plan to rent out, a site plan showing required parking spaces, and photos of the residence.

In addition, the owner of a property must keep a a general liability insurance policy and must stay in the property overnight while guests are present. Owners in all classes will be allowed to rent their unoccupied residence for 72 nights a year, so long as they either manage the property themselves or have a licensed off-site manager who can respond to public safety officers.

Rules in Cannonborough-Elliotborough are slightly more lenient after citizens banded together to allow short-term rentals several years ago. Commission member Angie Johnson questioned the difference in treatment.

“Is that creating an unfair advantage for those in Cannonborough-Elliotborough?” she asked.

City planning director Jacob Lindsey pointed to the neighborhood’s parking woes when discussing the stringent restrictions on Class 1 and 2 short-term rental zones.

“We just instituted 24-hour parking enforcement in Cannonborough-Elliotborough because of it,” he said.

Rules for short-term rentals in Class 1 (Old and Historic District):

– Property can only have one short-term rental unit, which can consist of one or more rooms
– Property must be individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places         
– Only two people per bedroom.
– Can be rented for one to 29 consecutive days.
– Operated by owner who lives there.
– One off-street parking space for first two bedrooms, and one parking space for each additional bedroom, and off-street parking for “existing uses.”
– Short-term rental property must be located on a lot with at least 40 feet of frontage on a public right of way.

Rules for short-term rentals in Class 2 (Old District):

– Same rules, except 40 feet of frontage are not required.

Rules for short-term rentals in Class 3 (Rest of Charleston)

– No limit on units used for short-term rental.
– Two people per bedroom.
– Property must still be primarily used for residential purposes.
– Property only has to be five years old.
– Off-street parking not required for one bedroom, one space required per bedroom after that.

Rules for Cannonborough-Elliotborough (No changes):

– Short-term rentals are only allowed on commercially zoned properties in the neighborhood. They may be rented to one family at a time per unit for a period of time between one and 29 days, as long as the unit is not designated as affordable or workforce housing. In Cannonborough-Elliotborough, owners are not required to stay in their short-term rentals for any period of time.

– Best and Breakfasts allowed throughout the neighborhood in properties primarily used for residential purposes. In most cases, B&B units should not exceed four units. Each unit can provide one or more rooms for one family, for a period of time between one and 29 days. The owner has to live in the property at least 183 days per year. The principal building on the property of the B&B must be at least 50 years old. Owners can only serve their guests breakfast.

Commission member Chris Fraser took a conciliatory tone to the proposed rules.

“We can start here, it’s down the middle,” he said. “It doesn’t make anybody happy, which might make it O.K.”

City Council will meet on Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. at The Schoolhouse in West Ashley.

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