Beaufort News

Floating boat hotel -- "botel" -- gets nod from Beaufort commission

The second floor of the Charlestonian, currently docked at the Beaufort Downtown Marina, has a dining room that can seat eight, a bar, a lounge for viewing television and movies, and deck space.
The second floor of the Charlestonian, currently docked at the Beaufort Downtown Marina, has a dining room that can seat eight, a bar, a lounge for viewing television and movies, and deck space.

A joint municipal board is recommending Beaufort City Council continue considering allowing boat hotels at the Beaufort Downtown Marina.

The Metropolitan Planning Commission, which has representatives from the town of Port Royal, city of Beaufort and Beaufort County, voted 4 to 1 in favor of allowing "botels." The recommendation will go to City Council for two votes, which have not been scheduled.

The owner of the 93-foot Charlestonian yacht is seeking a permit to rent rooms overnight while it is docked at the marina. The marina is in a "conservation preservation district," which has regulations designed to protect the environment, including limiting commercial enterprises.

"I think this flies in the face of what the zoning district is all about," said James Crower, the commission's lone dissenter. He quoted a section of the ordinance that states regulations are designed "to discourage any encroachment by residential, commercial, industrial or other uses."

City planner Libby Anderson said staff members have concerns about whether the botel is an appropriate use of public space in the marina, but one possibility is to change the ordinance to allow up to six botels, with up to five rooms apiece, in designated mooring fields or docks.

A variety of restrictions include a city-approved site plan that requires proper waste disposal, an on-site manager whenever botels with more than one room are occupied and appropriate insurance and vessel certifications.

Botels would also pay accommodations taxes. Charlestonian owner Ted Andrae said that although the boat has not been rented out for the past five months, rooms have rented for $175 a night in the past.

While a majority of commission members voted for the ordinance, they suggested some additional requirements and changes. Those include specifying which city official renews the business licenses, the appeals process if a license is revoked or denied, and limiting botels to docks but not mooring fields.

Alan Dechovitz spoke on behalf of the city's Redevelopment Commission, which discussed the botels two weeks ago. The commission is also working on a plan to add additional daydocks and a water sports center to the marina. The commission hopes to talk with developers about that plan and wants to make sure botels do not hold up any contracts. Two of the floating hotels would be preferred over six, and the commission wants the city to have the right to terminate botel licenses with 30 days' notice, he said.

The Metropolitan Planning Commission kept the limit of six botels and the annual license-renewal requirement. Commission member Alice Howard said allowing only two botels would be "almost arbitrarily restricting competition."

Harbor master and marina operator Rick Griffin said he does not expect many other botels to ask for licenses, as this is the first request he's had at the marina in 38 years.

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