Noisy short-term visitors an issue on area beaches

Fourth of July crowds on Folly Beach in 2012. The city is crafting noise ordinance changes under which too many complaints to police about disturbances can affect a property owner’s right to offer a house for rent.

At Folly Beach, some 80 percent of the houses are rentals, and often they are rented by people in town to have a really good time for a week or so before going home.

Resident neighbors may not appreciate noise the visitors make.

“You gotta get up and go to work. They don’t have to,” said Mayor Tim Goodwin.

In response to the situation, the city is crafting noise ordinance changes under which too many complaints to police about disturbances can affect a property owner’s right to offer a house for rent. That, in effect, adds teeth to the ordinance, Goodwin said.

Memorial Day weekend is a time of year when the situation tends to escalate. “Police will probably get a bunch of calls,” Goodwin said.

The problem as things stand with the current noise ordinance is that police can tell someone to quiet down but that doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Police leave and noise may crank back up. A rental agent, on the other hand, has authority to enter the property and kick the offending parties out, and that sometimes happens, he said.

City Council has given preliminary approval to changes in the ordinance that will enable the city to crack down on noise. A final Council vote will happen in July. The city will then move to amend its business license procedures so that noise complaints can affect the right to rent on Folly, Goodwin said.

Council has kicked around a number of different scenarios for penalties for short-term rental landlords whose tenants make too much noise. For instance, three violations could affect a property owner’s right to rent next year in July.

“We can’t really punish the people that are already here. You can’t pick on some poor guy coming from Illinois for vacation because of something that happened beyond his control,” Goodwin said.

On Isle of Palms, the city has had a system that links noise citations to a rental property owner’s ability to have a business license, but it has rarely moved to impose the penalty, said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Loftus.

Loftus said that he thinks the city should be more aggressive in enforcing the noise ordinance by issuing citations instead of warnings. That way it would be clear there are consequences for violations, he said.

The number of city tickets issued for noise violations has dropped. At the same time, complaints about noise remain, he said.

“The vast majority of it is short-term rentals. I definitely don’t think it’s gotten better,” Loftus said.

He said that in some cases residents have gotten so frustrated that they have stopped calling to complain.

The city and the Morgan Creek Grill have been working on a solution to noise complaints from neighbors. The grill is building a new specially designed and engineered outdoor stage to reduce noise so neighbors will not be bothered, said Carla Pope, operations director.

The grill on 41st Avenue, next to the IOP Marina, is about 10 days from completion of the new stage. It will install equipment and do sound tests and then meet with the city to review the results, she said.

The new stage is designed to control the direction and absorb sound. Music will not be turned up beyond an acceptable level and speakers will be pointed at the audience. The effect is like a drive-in movie theatre where individual speakers provide sound for each car, Pope said.

She said the grill has collected 2,000 signatures in support of its outdoor live music.

Sullivan’s Island prohibits short-term rentals so it doesn’t face the same sort of situation as Isle of Palms and Folly Beach.

Sullivan’s did move recently to scale back its St. Patrick’s Day Party this year because of complaints about noise and an unruly crowd. Revelers were not allowed in Middle Street as in years past. The same sort of restrictions were placed on the Polar Bear Plunge on Jan. 1.