Beaufort marina boat hotel proposal faces additional restrictions

A proposal to bring a boat hotel to the Beaufort Downtown Marina remains afloat, but owners face a growing list of restrictions.

The city is considering changing an ordinance to allow overnight guests in conservation preservation districts. The districts are designed to protect wildlife refuges, natural areas, outdoor recreational space and areas that flood periodically. The marina is in such a district.

A list of almost a dozen restrictions recommended by city staff was discussed by council in December. Ted Andrae, of Andrae Boat Co., which owns the 93-foot yacht The Charlestonian, wants to use it as a boat hotel.

Those earlier restrictions include limiting the number of botels to six and rooms per boat to five. They require a city-approved site plan that governs proper waste disposal as well as an on-site manager whenever botels with more than one room are occupied. They also include having appropriate insurance and vessel certifications.

During a worksession Tuesday night, council members discussed additional restrictions including further limiting the number of botels, adding a maximum boat length, requiring one bathroom per guest room, requiring a U.S. Coast Guard inspection and specifying emergency notification systems.

The botels would also be restricted to the marina, and not the mooring field, giving emergency responders direct, walk-on access if necessary.

Councilman Mike Sutton suggested many of the additional restrictions, but worried the city could add so many that no one will want to operate a boat hotel.

"Is it time to allow accommodations in the conservation district when we haven't before, and is that one more step toward a more vibrant waterfront?" he asked.

Council is considering having botels pay the same accommodation taxes land-based hotels do - 5 percent of the rate. Council also discussed the possibility of requiring boats be registered in Beaufort County.

"One of the things we're going to want, if you're going to be staying in the area, we're going to want local taxes paid," Sutton said.

Mayor Billy Keyserling asked if leasing space to botel owners at the city-owned marina is the best use of the facility. Although the marina is public, it has a locked gate with a code that is given to boat operators. Adding six botels, with up to five rooms apiece, could mean substantial foot traffic and parking needs, Keyserling said.

Resident Edie Rogers said the city needs to first investigate how many boats already at the marina are being lived on.

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