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Mount Pleasant commission votes down short-term rental regulations

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Mount Pleasant Planning Commission voted unanimously to reject the town’s proposed short-term rental ordinance Tuesday night, sending the regulations to the Town Council’s Planning Committee with a recommendation to deny the proposal.

Mount Pleasant Planning Department staff has been working on an ordinance in conjunction with the town’s Planning Committee, which is made up of council members, for almost a year. Staff researched local trends, spoke with other municipalities, received public input and produced multiple ordinance drafts before Planning Committee voted in April to send the proposed ordinance (.pdf) to Planning Commission.

Planning Commission, which is made up of nine citizens who are appointed by Town Council, voted last month to defer the short-term rental ordinance to a special meeting because of the number of questions they had about the regulations.

Michele Canon, principal planner for Mount Pleasant, was only able to get through one part of her presentation, regarding the proposed cost of a short-term rental permit, before Commissioner Roy Neal made a motion to deny the ordinance.

“We all know the issues out there and what they can be,” Neal said. “I can sit down here and work through every one of these things and tell you, I’m going to vote no on this thing because I don’t want it. I think it’s overreach; I think it’s over-taxation.”

Commissioner John McNeill, who seconded Neal’s motion, agreed that Planning Commission was not in a place to be making policy.

“The commission is here to make a recommendation. We are not here to craft the ordinance,” McNeill said. “And therefore, I think that by denying it … it certainly sends some kind of message — I’m not sure what — to council. But it sends some kind of message that it needs to be rethought or adjusted or whatever.”

Some commissioners, including Commissioner Kathy Smith, were initially reluctant to recommend denial.

“I don’t think it is appropriate for us to throw the baby out with the bath water, and I feel that … what makes a town vibrant and healthy is diversity,” she said. “And not just diversity of people — diversity of housing types, diversity of rental types. And I believe that we can craft an ordinance that allows short-term rentals to happen, but happen properly.”

Neal said he was happy to go through his list of problems with the ordinance, but “there’s just so many things wrong with this ordinance.”

About 60 members of the public showed up to give public comment and observe the special meeting, including former governor and U.S. House member Mark Sanford, who spoke in support of short-term rentals.

When the motion to deny the proposed ordinance passed only an hour into the meeting, many citizens in the Town Council chambers began to applaud.

“This is a document that began at the council level,” Smith said. “So there’s a part of me that feels that this is what council wants. Well, if this is what council wants, we can amend and suggest until we’re blue in the face, and council will say, ‘Thank you, but no thanks.’”

Commissioner Joseph Wren, chair of the Planning Commission, said part of the problem was the way this ordinance was crafted. Typically in his experience, Wren said, ordinances begin with staff working at the discretion of Town Council, and then it moves through Planning Commission, Planning Committee and Town Council, with each body making adjustments along the way.

“This process kind of got handed on our lap a little bit,” Wren said. “And there’s a lot of personal issues I have with it, as well.”

Planning Committee is expected to take up the proposed ordinance at its next meeting before the regulations go before Town Council.

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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