The couple trying to make four "treehouses" on Wadmalaw Island into an AirBnb hot spot have withdrawn their request to expand rentals there.
Seth and Tori Bolt will now be barred from asking for rental permissions for the next year, unless Charleston County Council grants them a waiver to start the rezoning process again. Council Chairman Elliott Summey announced that the application had been pulled at the council's Tuesday meeting, where 68 people had asked to speak about the Bolts' proposal.
"This process has been a giant learning experience for us," Tori Bolt wrote in an email Wednesday. "We are rethinking a lot of things, including how we can best use our property in a way that accomplishes our desires, best serves our community and celebrates the rural, cherished character of Wadmalaw Island."
Wadmalaw residents are notoriously protective of the rural nature of the island, which does not have a grocery store or gas station. Since the 1980s, it has had some of the most restrictive land use rules in the county.
The county received 226 letters from island residents opposed to the Bolt's request and 11 letters of support.
"My granddaddy used to say the first rule of politics is knowing how to count, and I think it's very clear where the public and where Wadmalaw stands on this," Summey said in the meeting.
Seth Bolt, the bassist in Christian rock band Needtobreathe, bought a 35-acre Maybank Highway property just north of the Charleston Tea Plantation with his wife, Tori, in 2017. The couple constructed the four treehouses there, though the structures, similar to raised cabins on stilts, are nestled near trees, not supported by them.
The Bolts previously told The Post and Courier that they respect the rural nature of the island and hope to create a nature-focused retreat there. It's unclear if they will attempt to seek rental rights again in the future.
"What’s most important to us right now is seeking restoration with our community," Tori Bolt said.
In recent weeks, the tenor of online discussion about the project reached a fever pitch, with some on Facebook hurling insults toward the Bolts. Last month, Tori Bolt posted a video in a Wadmalaw group, saying she felt threatened by the heated tone of the conversation.
Some residents were also frustrated with what they saw as the Bolts' turnaround on whether the treehouses were meant for personal use or a moneymaking opportunity via AirBnb. Another treehouse owned by the couple in Walhalla has been a top destination on the short-term rental app.
Initially, the Bolts said their treehouses would be a retreat for their family and for the band, but, ultimately, they applied for the right to rent out all of them for 365 days a year. Under their existing zoning, only two of the structures may be rented for a total 72 nights a year between them.
On Wadmalaw, residents and members of the island's Land Planning Committee worried that granting the Bolts' special zoning could open the door to other developers who might see the sleepy island as a cash cow. Around 300 islanders came to the county meeting on Tuesday, said Kevin Richbourg, chair of the committee.
"We count that as a win," Richbourg said of the result. "I'm so proud of our island and our community for coming out when we need to."
The island's committee and Charleston County's planning commission already unanimously recommended that County Council reject the Bolts' plan, which would have also given them the right to build three more treehouses and host 25 events a year on their land. County Council was hearing its first vote when the application was pulled.