Beaufort News

2-hour debate doesn't resolve short-term rentals in historic Beaufort district

After about two hours of discussion, the Beaufort-Port Royal Metropolitan Planning Commission tabled a recommendation Monday on whether short-term rentals -- those less than 30 days -- should be allowed in the city's residential districts by special exception.

The commission first wants to know if individuals who were recently asked by the city to halt the illegal rentals could get temporary clearance to operate while the city's "Build Beaufort" team of planning consultants investigates the issue. The commission asked the city attorney to look into it.

Monday's meeting marked the latest in months of sometimes contentious discussion on allowing short-term rentals in residential districts by special exception.

Short-term rentals are allowed only in commercial districts.

About 10 non-commission members spoke on the issue Monday.

Some, including applicants John and Erica Dickerson, touted short-term rentals as a significant value to the community that allow visitors a chance to experience the city in a way hotels and bed and breakfasts don't offer.

Others, including representatives of the Point and Battery Point neighborhoods, said they support the concept of short-term rentals, just not in their communities and emphasized that neighbors should have a say in each case.

Many scenarios and requests were offered at Monday's meeting, from simplifying the approval processfor short-term rental owners who live on-siteto only allowing short-term rentals within 400 feet of commercially zoned property.

The issue first arose in July, when the Dickersons applied to allow short-term rentals in Beaufort's historic district by special exception. Zoning allows such rentals in a home they own on Charles Street, but not in one they own on Duke Street.

Commission members agreed they want the Dickerson's dilemma solved soon, and some recommended they apply to rezone the property to a commercial designation.

But that is not a permanent fix for the problem, some members argued.

The discussion tied into a request from a historic district homeowner whoapplied to rezone her property from a residential to commercial district to allow the rentals.

Much of the discussion on her request Monday revolved around her desire to do short-term rentals, including comment from neighbors who said the business has been disruptive in the past. The commission recommended City Council deny the application.

Member Greg Huddy said he believes "zoning is not the right way to (deal with) short-term rentals."