Floating motel idea worth giving a try

info@islandpacket.comDecember 15, 2012 

Some quirks can be charming, others ruinous.

At this point, it is unclear which would be the case with the quirky idea presented to Beaufort City Council -- a 93-foot yacht has been docked at Beaufort Downtown Marina, and its owner wants to use it as a floating motel.

Opposition to and support for the proposal seem to be breaking along lines similar to those that divided opinion on recent additions to the city's master plan, which allow for a boating center near the marina and put a new day dock in front of the seawall at the adjacent Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park.

But there are two important distinctions in this proposal: "Botel" operators can be made to shoulder the expense of their own operations, which do not have the same permanence as a dock or boathouse.

In other words, this idea will be easier to flush should it prove to be a bad one, and it is just novel enough to warrant a test run.

This should not be construed as a ringing endorsement of the proposal, for there are many important details to be worked out before this experiment is undertaken. Chief among them are management of waste discharge, assignment of environmental and personal liability for botels using a public dock or mooring field, and determining who will be responsible for enforcing whatever rules are set for these operations. It also should be approached with a sense of fairness to hostelries on terra firma, ensuring that botels don't get a free ride on parking, taxation and other government requirements.

The city's staff and Redevelopment Commission, which has expressed conditional support for the proposal, seem to be on their way to working this out.

Floating hotels would be required to:

  • Operate in an approved marina or mooring field.

  • Have an onsite manager whenever more than one guest room is occupied.

  • Submit a management plan to the city that covers guest management, fire safety, water supply, sanitation disposal and cleaning.

  • Proposed rules also would limit to six the number of botels operating within the city at any given time and make annual license renewal contingent upon compliance with the city's rules.

    The Charlestonian -- the vessel currently docked at the Downtown Marina -- would provide up to five guest rooms and would not tour waterways, according to its request to change a city ordinance, allowing it to operate there.

    Five residents and nearby property owners wrote letters objecting to any change in the ordinance. However, marina manager Rick Griffin wrote to the city in support of the request, saying such a facility would bring "high-end guests to downtown Beaufort who will eat in restaurants and shop in the stores."

    On the chance he is right, this is an idea worth trying, so long as the experiment can end quickly if the residents' fears come to fruition.

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