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Folly Beach keeps beach open to residents but shuts down short-term rentals, hotel stays

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Caitlin McDermott (from left), Christy McDermott and Colin McDermott look for shark teeth on Folly Beach after it was closed to the public due to the coronavirus on Monday, March 23, 2020. Christy and Colin were in town helping their sister, Caitlin, a College of Charleston student, move back to their home state of Pennsylvania. Lauren Petracca/Staff

Folly Beach on Tuesday disallowed new check-ins for short-term rentals and hotels until after April 30.

City Council voted not to close the beach to residents but cautioned groups using it to abide by a limit of no more than three people at a time, per state guidelines.

Tourism rentals are the heart of the city's economy, and the vote was divided. The business already has been crippled by the coronavirus outbreak and restrictions. Mayor Tim Goodwin, who is in the rental business, took a deep breath before voting to shut down.

Councilman Eddie Ellis, who made the motion, said it came down to keeping out people from areas with high outbreaks of the coronavirus. It's a matter of prioritizing public health and safety.

If they are infected, he said, "whether they stay one day or seven days, they're still bringing that contagion into our community," Ellis said.

Isle of Palms, another tourism rental hub around Charleston, was monitoring Folly's actions but had made no decisions yet, said City Administrator Desirée Fragoso.

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The beach-access vote was unanimous and came after an overnight barrage of emails from residents who opposed a closing. The decision toed the line with nearby beach towns such as Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms. All the towns are restricting access during daylight hours.

Council acted after tempers flared on both sides of the barricades Monday at some other coastal towns after restrictions, such as beach closings, were abruptly put in place late last week because of the coronavirus.

"The people are collectively begging on their knees not to close the beach," Ellis said.

 

Reach Bo Petersen at @bopete on Twitter or 843-937-5744.

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