A breakthrough in Charleston's long-running debate over hotel development may be near, but the mint is not on the pillow quite yet.
In less than a month since its creation, the city task force assigned with slowing the expansion of hotel development in Charleston pitched a proposal to give the city's Board of Zoning Appeals more teeth when developers stray from approved plans.
Developers whose final structures differ from approved plans could have their Certificate of Occupancy or business license revoked under the proposed ordinance change, a city attorney said Monday. Additionally, those developers would be subjected to fines.
Also, any hotel development constructed in existing apartment or residential areas would have to maintain the number of apartments or homes it displaces within a quarter mile of the proposed hotel, said attorney Frances Cantwell. If more than 25 percent of the building being redeveloped into a hotel was office or retail space over the last seven years, then developer would be required to maintain that space either on site or nearby, she said.
Any such residential or office hotel-related development also would have to keep with the character of the neighborhood it is built, meaning it must maintain either the rental pricing or market price for owner occupied homes. High end hotels couldn't be built in lower income areas. The proposal also looks to limit the number of "full service" hotels, which would only be permitted in certain zones not specified Monday.
Cantwell said it gives the Board of Zoning Appeals "extra tools to use as they weigh the benefits and effects of the application." The board wanted "more meat on the bone," she added, "and I think they're getting that."
The proposed nine page ordinance also bans rooftop bars. Jack O'Toole, city spokesperson, said task force members have seen the proliferation of rooftop bars in recent years and are concerned about the impact of their noise on nearby residential neighborhoods.
During the task force's last meeting Monday afternoon, Mayor John Tecklenburg also requested that any new hotel contribute $3.40 for each of its square feet to the city's affordable housing initiatives.
Tecklenburg said he believes the proposed changes "ensure that any future development will be high quality and will really have first in mind the quality of life of our citizens first."
Tecklenburg previously presented City Council with several plans to rein in hotel development, but none won needed support. Earlier suggestions included a one-year moratorium on new projects and the removal of 86 properties from the city’s “overlay” zone where hotels can be built.
It will be clear soon if this plan succeeds where the others failed: City Council is expected to review it next week. If given initial approval then, the proposal would take effect immediately under the proposed ordinance doctrine. The city's Planning Commission then will review it before it returns to City Council for a final vote.
The task force was comprised of representatives from City Council, the lodging industry and preservation groups.