In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, North Myrtle Beach on Thursday passed an ordinance banning short-term rentals in the city through April 30.
The city's ordinance, effective Friday at 7 a.m., applies to hotels, motels, condo hotels, HOAs, property management companies and public and private campgrounds, among others. Short-term rentals are defined as a stay of 29 days or less. Visitors who are checked in before the ordinance takes effect in can stay through the end of their reservation.
The ordinance does not apply to rentals used for government, hospital, health agency, law enforcement, military and other critical personnel responding to COVID-19.
No notice of the meeting was provided to the public.
City spokesman Pat Dowling said that the secret meeting was held under the city's "emergency ordinance" code.
North Myrtle Beach councilor Nikki Fontana said she wasn't notified of the meeting until she checked her email at 12:45 p.m. Thursday. Fontana, Mayor Marilyn Hatley and councilor Terry White met in person at city hall, she said, and everyone else phoned in.
"We did this in order to help combat the fight on COVID-19," Fontana said. "We feel that we need to go ahead and take those steps in order the protect our community. I personally feel like we should have done this weeks ago when the schools shut down, and the bars and restaurants. I feel like the longer we have prolonged doing something like this, the longer it will take to get back to normalcy in our city."
Fontana said the city wanted to prevent large outbreaks such as the one in New York City - which as of Wednesday had more than 20,000 cases and almost 300 deaths - from coming to North Myrtle.
"I feel like this is going to keep everyone safe as much as we can right now," she added.