North Myrtle Beach City Council on Monday supported a series of policy changes aimed in part at reforming the short-term rental industry.
The council approved two ordinances to crack down on noisy nighttime antics and took the first vote on increasing trash pickup at short-term rentals. The city is also considering new residential rental parking regulations.
The changing rules are part of an effort to crack down on some of the undesirable symptoms of the short-term rental industry without passing a comprehensive rental ordinance like the one the city proposed last year. That discussion went nowhere. The major complaints from folks living near short-term rentals are noise, trash and parking, and the city is working on passing new rules that address each of those challenges individually.
Because visitors who rent in residential areas are often not familiar with the trash pickup schedules, excess garbage can pile up, causing a foul mess for neighbors.
Dixon Withers-Julian lives with his wife in the Pinewood Acres community near the Grand Strand Airport, and he said trashcans would often flow over at the rental next door.
“They say this little place next to us will sleep 13, and so you get 13 people, you generate a lot of trash,” Withers-Julian said. “Some of them I don’t think are aware of when the trash comes. If someone leaves on a Wednesday and they come in Friday afternoon, you’re going to be double up on the next Thursday. Hopefully what they’re going to do will solve it.”
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The ordinance proposes trash pickup on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday along the beachfront route and in neighborhoods with short-term rentals.
The current fee schedule doesn’t cover the increase in pickups, and since the city believes it will have to start service before the next fiscal year, officials plan to increase the street-side garbage can fee from $37 per month to $80 per month for residential properties that are rented on a transient basis. A second garbage can, or “roll cart” as it’s called in the ordinance, will cost the property owner an extra $65. The fee will become effective if the ordinance passes second reading.
City spokesman Pat Dowling said the increase in the fee and frequency of trash pickup (which began this weekend) would be automatically applied to owners who rent out their houses. Those owners need a business license to rent their property, so the city will use business licenses to identify the properties. If the sanitation department determines that a residence needs a second trash can, he said, the city will make the call to provide one and tack on the extra $65.
“It’ll be new for short-term rental owners but it’s necessary,” Dowling added.
Mayor Marilyn Hatley said it would be up to the rental owners to let their visitors know when trash will get picked up.
“The people with the VRBOs (vacation rental by owner), they are going to have to figure out a way to let their renters know; if it’s putting up something in the kitchen or by the backdoor or whatever, they’re going to have notify their renters,” Hatley said. “And if they don’t and we have trash everywhere, then there’s going to be tickets.”
Hilary Seddinger, who owns a couple short-term rentals with her husband, pointed out that other businesses in the city and multi-family complexes like condos are allowed to contract for their own garbage collection while residential properties can’t.
“The short-term rentals pay a business license fee and they remit taxes just like public businesses in the city,” Seddinger told the council. “As such, I think the short-term rentals should have the same right to contract our own garbage service if the homeowner chooses to. Applying this fee to short term rentals without giving us the same right to choose who we pay to collect our garbage gives the city a monopoly over the collection of trash service. Rather than ticketing and fining homeowners or management companies whose properties are the real nuisance, all responsible short-term rental owners have to bear the burden of the cost increase.”
Seddinger asked council members to consider changing their code of ordinances to let short-term rental owners contract their own garbage collection. Hatley said it was a complicated issue.
“If it’s condos, your condo companies, your shopping centers, people like that, they can hire an outsider. But when you talk individual homes, that’s a whole different thing,” Hatley said. “How many trash trucks do you want to be coming down the street? At what time do you want? These trash trucks pick up at all different hours. It could be early, six o’clock in the morning, that some of them come in. It could be 5:30 in the morning, which we don’t like, we don’t allow.”
The mayor also said that if residential owners decided to contract with other garbage collectors, the city could lose revenue from its collection fees.
“You might like it one year, and one year you might not and say, ‘Well I’m going to go back to the city,’” Hatley said. “Well, we may not be prepared because we had to lay off a bunch because you decided not to use our trash pickup. And now this year you want to, so then we’ve got to find employees.”
The noise ordinance and complementary enforcement standards ordinance that council passed on final reading make it illegal to cause any repetitive or sustained noise that is audible beyond the property line between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. when, in the opinion of the responding officer, the noise is excessive, disrupting the peace or disturbing the general public.
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City officials have said a first offense would mean a warning, a second the same night would mean a ticket and a third would mean handcuffs.
Councilman Hank Thomas suggested amending the ordinance to force venues near R-1 zoned residential neighborhoods to turn the music off at 9 p.m. But council decided to stick with the original language instead, with some arguing that it wouldn’t give the public enough notice and pointing out that council could revisit the issue later if needed.
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“This might not fix everything, but I think it’ll fix a lot,” said councilman Jay Baldwin.
The city is also planning a crackdown on fireworks within the city limits, which are already illegal without a permit, but the city plans to stop giving warnings and start ticketing on a first offense. A second offense could mean a trip to jail. Dowling said around half of the circa 2,000 noise complaints the city received last year came from fireworks.
More parking rules?
The comprehensive short-term rental ordinance the city proposed last year would have forced rental properties to provide adequate parking for their guests.
The city has been allowing rental companies to police themselves and provide adequate parking, but the smaller rental properties in residential areas don’t always have room to park every car that travelers bring, which can cause vehicles to overflow into the street.
Hatley said the city is going to put a stop to that.
“The next thing is going to be that you have to provide parking for your home,” she said. “If your piece of property cannot hold but four vehicles, then you’re going to have to provide and show the city where you are parking the rest of the cars off-premises. A lot of your rental companies are already doing that. The VRBOs are going to have to start doing the same thing. We’re not going to allow cars parked on the street at night. Street parking is not going to be allowed for you to sleep all night and leave your car out in the middle of the street.”