A group of people who live at Folly Beach are asking the city to put a limit on investment short term rental licenses, or STRs. In June, the city council voted
FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCSC) - A group of people who live at Folly Beach are asking the city to put a limit on investment short term rental licenses, or STRs. In June, the city council voted against the mayor’s proposed 800-unit cap on STRs.
Still hoping to see changes, John McFarland established ‘Save Folly’s Future’ and collected 469 signatures of people supporting an investment STR cap of 800 units. The petition would not put a limit on owner-occupied STRs.
“Once the mayor’s proposal was defeated, we knew that there was one more avenue. It enables a city to have a referendum. You can write your own ordinance,” McFarland says.
Under South Carolina law, a verified citizen petition ordinance signed by 15% of the registered voters can go before the council. If the signatures are verified, city council will schedule a vote on the proposed ordinance. They have the option to pass it as presented or send it to a vote of the general public within one year.
“We needed 15% and we received 24%. It was a lot of work. We have a post office here and everybody has to drive to the post office to get their mail, so we set up a table across the street and all you had to do was walk over and sign the petition,” McFarland says.
On Tuesday, McFarland presented the petition to council. Now Charleston County is working to verify the signatures. He says he hopes the topic goes to a vote so, like the petition, the people of Folly will decide.
The petition cites quality of life impacts, stress on infrastructure, burdens on public serves and threats to the population numbers as reasons for the cap.
“I don’t think that a typical tourist understands that when they come to the city for a visit that they are in a house in the middle of a residential district. They have a great time, that’s great, except the people living next door have to get up and go to work and get the kids to school,” McFarland says.
As of October 18, Folly Beach confirmed the city issued 1,112 STRs for the 2022 business license year. McFarland says he hopes this process will create the right balance between people visiting and people living at Folly Beach. According to census data between 2010 and 2020, Folly Beach lost more than 500 residents. McFarland says he fears STRs are contributing to the population decline and wants to preserve the community.
“We have churches, we have civic clubs, we have Halloween events, we have Christmas parades. We are a community just like any other, although we are very small, and I would like to make sure that community is still around in 10, 20 and 30 years,” McFarland says. “And that can only happen if we limit the number of STRs and reestablish the balance that we had 10 and 20 years ago when we had enough tourists but not too many.”
At Tuesday night’s meeting, city council approved a three month pause on giving out short term rental licenses while they work out what the next steps with the petition are.
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