South Carolina lawmakers look to change how short-term rentals are regulated

State - Regional

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – State legislators are proposing a change to the way short term rentals are handled and regulated across the State of South Carolina. Some local leaders say regulations shouldn’t come from the state government and instead should only be made locally.

If approved, the bill would prevent local governments like Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and others from enacting restrictions on short term rentals. Instead, those orders could only be approved by the state government.

Local leaders like Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie say local governments should have a stake in the game.

“This would be terrible for us, we would lose the nature of our coastal towns if the state does this,” says Mayor Haynie.

The new bill, House Bill H4547 proposed by State Representatives Lee Hewitt, Lin Bennett and Melissa Oremus would strip local municipalities of regulating short-term rentals and put the power in the hands of the state. Mayor Haynie says it would wipe out years of work to find a middle ground in terms of regulating short-term rentals.

“We didn’t eliminate them but we had justifiable and reasonable restrictions on them,” says Mayor Haynie.

Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll says he also opposes the bill. Mayor Haynie says the rental restrictions shouldn’t be decided in Columbia because tourism in the middle and upper parts of the state isn’t comparable to that seen in coastal communities.

“This is a business, this is an industry – we have zoning,” says Mayor Haynie. “And what the state law if this passes would do is turn neighborhoods into hospitality zones.”

Lawmakers are pushing for the bill to be passed by the State House of Representatives including Lowcountry Representative Lin Bennett. Representative Bennett believes local governments are taking current regulations too far.

“It’s an overreach, it’s to control other people’s property and other people’s interests,” says State Representative Bennett.

Representative Bennett says if passed, the bill would allow property owners to dictate use of their properties under state regulations, not those passed by local municipalities.

“They pay the taxes on their property and I just believe they have, they should have the final say in how this property is to be used,” says State Representative Bennett.

The debate over short-term rental regulations, setting up a state-wide battle between leaders.

“And I’m sorry that the mayors aren’t happy with that but that’s just the way it is when you live in a free state,” says Representative Bennett.

“This is a very slippery slope and they need to stay away from it,” says Mayor Haynie.

The bill is scheduled to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session set to begin next month in January when the legislative body returns to Columbia.

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