WEB ONLY Short-term rentals allowed on Cannon Street (copy)

The city of Charleston currently only allows short-term rentals in commercially-zoned properties in Cannonborough-Elliottborough downtown. The new ordinance would legalize them across the city, under certain circumstances. Abigail Darlington/Staff

Charleston City Council reached a general consensus Monday night on how to regulate short-term rentals across the city but decided to postpone voting on the new rules until the next meeting.

Council initially approved the ordinance about a month ago despite some concerns about how enforceable it would be, and whether properties should have to be a certain age to operate a short-term rental.

Those issues were discussed at length with city staff at a special workshop session before Monday's regular meeting, which led council to agree to some minor changes.

The main features of the ordinance, such as the ban on whole-house rentals, remained intact. 

It establishes separate rules for three different "classes," generally to set stricter requirements for short-term rentals on the peninsula. Council agreed that the classes should be defined in the following ways:

  • Class 1 includes the Old & Historic Districts on the lower peninsula, but only properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for a short-term rental permit.
  • Class 2 is for the rest of the peninsula, where properties have to be at least 50 years old. The class does not include the Cannonborough-Elliottborough neighborhood because it already has short-term rental rules in place.
  • Class 3 spans the rest of the city beyond the peninsula, where there will not be an age limit on properties.

In Class 1, only a few dozen properties would be allowed to operate a short-term rental. Councilwoman Carol Jackson questioned whether that was fair, but Councilmen Mike Seekings and Gary White said the restrictions needed to be narrow to protect historic neighborhoods already inundated by new hotels and other tourism activities.

The age limit in Class 2 is meant to prevent property owners from building new homes or accessory units specifically for short-term rentals. Council agreed neighborhoods in the suburbs weren't facing the same amount of tourism pressure, eliminating a need for an age limit.

Council also directed the planning staff to clarify the parking requirements in each class. It removed the requirement that properties applying for a short-term rental permit must have "maneuverable" on-site parking spaces, which means each car would have to be able pull in and out of a driveway without moving another car.

The ordinance will be updated and sent back to council in two weeks for final review. 

Reach Abigail Darlington at 843-937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.

Abigail Darlington is a local government reporter focusing primarily on the City of Charleston. She previously covered local arts & entertainment, technology, innovation, tourism and retail for the Post and Courier.