After more than a year of sometimes contentious debate, Beaufort will now allow short-term rentals -- those of less than 30 days -- in all but one of Beaufort's residential neighborhoods.
Beaufort City Council gave final approval to the new policy Tuesday after more than an hour of last-minute pleas from property owners and local Realtors who said they worry the change will hurt the character of neighborhoods and drive down property values.
"I think you are about to do something that is going to cause harm to far more people than it's going to do good," Matt McAlhaney, a Beaufort resident and owner of the City Loft Hotel on Carteret Street, told council members.
Some encouraged council to table a final vote and continue studying the issue.
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Others -- including property owners who have operated short-term rentals -- supported the change, saying such rentals often attract responsible visitors who want to stay somewhere other than a hotel or motel.
Short-term rentals previously were only allowed in commercial districts.
Council voted unanimously to approve the change, with many members saying they don't expect a rush of applications to seek a short-term rental business license and feel confident the ordinance has enough checks and balances to prevent abuse of the privilege.
The proposed ordinance allows the primary house on a property to be rented out 30 days or less with approval from the city's Zoning Board of Appeals, which would consider applications on a case-by-case basis. The ordinance also allows short-term rentals in secondary dwelling units -- such as a carriage house or garage apartment -- if the owner lives on the premises, but those will not require a special exception and can be approved by city staff.
Each owner of a short-term rental must meet certain standards outlined in the ordinance, such as requiring a minimum two-night stay, providing adequate on-site parking and developing a property-management plan.
The ordinance does not apply to planned communities where neighborhood covenants prohibit short-term rentals, or in The Point neighborhood in downtown.
Council again discusses short-term rental proposal, March 22, 2011