South Carolina lawmakers seek to change short-term rental regulations

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCBD) — State lawmakers are proposing to change how short-term rentals are handled and regulated in the state of South Carolina. Some local leaders say regulations should not come from the state government and should instead only be made locally.

If approved, the bill would prevent local governments like Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and others from enacting restrictions on short-term rentals. Instead, these ordinances could only be approved by the state government.

Local leaders like Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie say local governments should have a stake in the game.

“It would be terrible for us, we would lose the nature of our coastal towns if the state did that,” Mayor Haynie said.

The new bill, House Bill H4547 proposed by State Representatives Lee Hewitt, Lin Bennett and Melissa Oremus would strip local municipalities from regulating short-term rentals and put power in the hands of the state. Mayor Haynie says it would undo years of work to find common ground in terms of regulating short-term rentals.

“We didn’t eliminate them, but we imposed justifiable and reasonable restrictions on them,” Mayor Haynie said.

Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll says he also opposes the bill. Mayor Haynie says rental restrictions should not be decided in Colombia because tourism in the middle and upper parts of the state is not comparable to that seen in coastal communities.

“It’s a business, it’s an industry – we have zoning,” Mayor Haynie said. “And what state law, if it passes, would do is turn neighborhoods into welcoming areas.”

Lawmakers are pushing for the bill to pass the state House of Representatives, including Lowcountry Rep. Lin Bennett. Rep. Bennett believes local governments are pushing current regulations too far.

“It’s an excess, it’s to control other people’s property and interests,” State Rep. Bennett said.

Rep. Bennett said that if passed, the bill would allow property owners to dictate the use of their properties in accordance with state regulations, not those passed by local municipalities.

“They pay the taxes on their property and I just believe they have, they should have the final say on how that property is to be used,” State Rep. Bennett says.

The debate over the regulation of short-term rentals, creating a statewide battle between leaders.

“And I’m sorry the mayors aren’t happy with that, but that’s how it is when you live in a free state,” Rep. Bennett says.

“It’s a very slippery slope and they need to stay clear,” Mayor Haynie said.

The bill is expected to be discussed in the next legislative session which is expected to begin next month in January when the legislature returns to Colombia.

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