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North Myrtle Beach City Council proposed an ordinance regarding short-term rental properties. Photo by Andrea Maestre

North Myrtle Beach proposes ordinance for all short-term rentals

By Ruben Lowman

North Myrtle Beach officials addressed residents concerns regarding rules for short-term property rentals within city limits at a recent council workshop.

The issues involving short-term properties and their renters that have been taken up by the council consist of excessive noise, parking and trash complaints.

Many of the complaints revolved around rental properties that are advertised online and located in residential areas. The popularity of rental websites like VRBO and Airbnb have turned many properties into mini-hotels of sorts during the peak tourist season in the summer, and spurred permanent homeowners and tenants to ask the city to look into solving the problems.

Citizens residing in the areas of concern recently addressed city leaders directly by sending a letter outlining the growing problems involving short-term rental properties and asking the city to devise new regulations to solve them.

The letter states, “As a rental unit, and therefore a commercial property, there should be a required minimum number of parking spaces and allowable vehicles. Too often, we experience vehicles parked along sidestreets. The Code of Ordinance Section 21-23 states it is unlawful to park any vehicle within 25 feet of a corner or intersection which will obstruct the view of the traveling public. At times it is difficult to sit outside due to the smell of garbage.”

North Myrtle Beach officials do not want to outlaw short-term rental properties as tourism is the lifeblood of the city and the overall area. They want to address the concerns of residents while establishing universal regulations that business owners can understand and adhere to.

The city is proposing an ordinance that will create a permitting system for rental properties which will see each location inspected annually and then given a permit. Repeated violations will see the owner’s permit revoked.

One of the main pillars of the ordinance is concerning the protocol for what happens when there is an official complaint to the city.

Properties will be required to have signage showing the name and phone number of the owner or operator, in order for city staff to contact within a half hour when a problem arises. Other components include the permitting number, rules for overflow parking, and the maximum occupancy overnight and permitted parking on-site.

The proposed ordinance also breaks short-term rental properties into two groups of classification. Single-family homes, townhouses, duplexes and individual rooms in a house are grouped into Class 1. Class 2 consists of units within a multi-family residence.

City spokesperson Pat Dowling provided an update on the movement of the proposed ordinance.

“With input from City Council, residents, the business community and others, city staff continues to work on a proposed ordinance that seeks to address the issues of noise, parking and trash pertaining to short-term rentals,” said Dowling.

The issue has been a little contentious recently, with misrepresentations of the regulations and the city’s intention with the ordinance. There have been some who have questioned the city’s motivations in proposing an ordinance that places restrictions on short-term rental properties.

Dowling addressed that, saying, “There are some who are making a concerted effort to promote the idea that the city wants to shut down short-term rentals, and that is not the case. Tourism is our industry and the city knows that, without an abundance of hotel/motel rooms, short-term rentals represent a primary means of providing accommodations to visitors to North Myrtle Beach.”

At the same time, Dowling said that city residents are afforded the right to certain privileges, one being a reasonable expectation of a happy, peaceful quality of life. Any infringement these rental properties have on that quality of life needs to be remedied.

“However, if not properly managed, short-term rentals, especially in residential neighborhoods, do intrude on a positive quality of life that all homeowners have the right to enjoy. The proposed ordinance seeks to establish enforceable ground rules that will enable the owner(s) of short-term rentals to function unabated, and their neighbors to enjoy freedom from excessive noise, over-parking and trash associated with them,” Dowling said.

A local group of businessowners, the North Myrtle Beach Hospitality Coalition, formed in response to the ordinance and its individual members are helping to promote their concerns to the council.

Dowling informed The Times of the input the city has received. “The city has not been directly approached by and is not working specifically with the North Myrtle Beach Hospitality Coalition as an organization but some of the group’s apparent members have been providing input individually to the city, and the city has certainly considered that input. Ideas are always welcome but not every idea that is offered can be utilized,” he said.

“My take is that, while some may not know it yet, the city and its residents and business owners are all on the same page — we know short-term rentals are essential to our tourism industry, and we agree that noise, parking and trash associated with some short-term rentals generate legitimate complaints from adjacent homeowners,” Dowling continued.

“With enforceable rules that carry some responsibility on the part of short-term rental owners and property management firms, we can all live in harmony. That is city council’s and city management’s goal.”

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