People who want to make extra income renting their homes or a portion of their homes will have to keep their rentals to 30 consecutive days or less, if a proposed ordinance is accepted by the Conway City Council.

A council committee took a first look at the new rules this past week, but took no action, sending the document on to the city’s planning commission for more study before council votes on it.

Councilman Tom Anderson wants staff to make sure that the rules are enforceable before any action is taken on them.

But planning director Jessica Hucks said when a similar ordinance was challenged in Santa Monica, Calif., the city won its challenge.

Hucks said this type of rental can be expensive for a city to enforce.

Anderson said after the meeting that he does not oppose these rentals as long as they don’t negatively impact a neighborhood.

Through an email Hucks says the purpose of the ordinance is to combat exactly the problem Anderson mentioned.

“Overall, this ordinance seeks to define what a short term rental/homestay STR is and to provide requirements for where a short term rental or homestay STR can be operated in the City. It does not seek to outright prohibit them, but merely provide regulations that will protect the integrity and character of residential neighborhoods.”

During the summer, nascent problems with this type of rental were brought to the attention of staff through complaints about one location. Staff began studying the issue and found about 15 homes that were open for rental through Airbnb, Homeaway, FlipKey, VRBO, etc., but they aren’t sure how many there are now or how many will be interested if the ordinance becomes law.

Hucks also points out that if this practice is properly regulated, it can be a good thing for property owners, providing a means of assisting them in maintaining property values.

The draft ordinance defines short-term rental as allowing someone to stay in a home for up to 30 consecutive days in exchange for some type of compensation. Motels, hotels, inns and bed and breakfast facilities are not included in this category.

These residences allowed in the core commercial, central business district and Waccamaw Riverfront districts 1 and 2 have fewer requirements than those in residentially-zoned areas.

The ordinance forbids any activities other than lodging, any displays of goods, products or services or other advertising to be visible outside of the dwelling.

The principal use of the property must be in a legally-permitted residence. Accessory structures can’t be used; only one short-term rental is permitted per lot; and no more than two adult guests will be permitted per bedroom.

Councilwoman Jean Timbes worried about this requirement asking about someone who brings along a baby, but Hucks says the requirement is for two adults per room, so a child could be allowed.

The ordinance doesn’t allow additional off-street parking, doesn’t want lights directed toward adjacent properties and forbids signage.

Cooking, except with a coffee pot and microwave, is not allowed.

This group and the homestays both require business licenses. Homestays are located in R, R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-4 zones and Planned Developments that contain residential structures.

Additional rules for this grouping include requiring a full-time resident to be present and living in the home while renters are there, which means they cannot stay overnight away from the home vacationing, visiting friends or family or traveling out of town for business or personal reasons.

Residents are allowed to shop, go to work or a class, etc.

If there is an HOA or POA, the residents must follow whatever restrictive covenants the neighborhood has and the zoning administrator must get written confirmation that the homeowner has fulfilled the HOA or POA’s requirements.

In the short-term rental and homestay categories, owners must pay all taxes due and follow all state and federal laws and occupants cannot host parties or other events including classes, weddings, receptions or other large gatherings and they must obey the noise ordinance.

Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and sent to the Municipal Court for resolution. Penalties are up to the judge, but the maximum fine possible is 30 days in jail or a fine of $2,125, according to the Conway Municipal Court.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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