Southport Aldermen explain their decisions on short term rental regulations

The new restrictions put in place will only allow short-term vacation rentals in business districts, while forbidding them in residential districts
Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 6:18 PM EDT
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SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) - After a nearly two-hour public hearing and discussion, the Southport Board of Aldermen became the latest governmental body to put new restrictions on short-term rentals; it’s an increasingly heated debate that has divided communities.

The new restrictions put in place will only allow short-term vacation rentals in some districts, like the business districts, while forbidding them in residential districts.

“I felt like the way this policy is written is it is a little overkill at this time,” Lora Sharkey, one of the two dissenting votes on the board said. “I just thought that it was too far and when I compared this ordinance to what Chapel Hill just adopted, and Chapel Hill is not a beach town either but they have people that visit there for different reasons, I thought this was too stringent as our first attempt.”

But for other board members, the restrictions are reasonable and only in place to help preserve neighborhoods. Alderman Lowe Davis also said that the restrictions are not going to strip away property rights from people already using their homes for rentals.

“Any kind of short-term rentals that currently exist are grandfathered in, the only thing that they have to do is sign up and get a permit once a year,” Alderman Lowe Davis said.

For Sharkey, there are concerns regarding the legality of the city’s restrictions, especially in light of the pending lawsuit the City of Wilmington is currently facing and she thinks they could have started smaller with fewer restrictions — to possibly avoid similar issues.

“Why didn’t we start with that because we didn’t have anything, so why didn’t we start with that and then see how it flowed from there versus implementing a lot of regulations that might be deemed illegal,” she said.

The Wilmington lawsuit is currently at the state appeals court and its outcome could set the precedent for what municipalities across the state can and can’t do when it comes to limiting rentals.

For Alderman Marc Spencer, it’s not so much the current property owners that he is concerned about affecting.

“A lot of those people are buying property with the idea of maybe using a short-term rental to pay the bills and then establish their future home when they retire so it is more about the opportunity of the next generation that I am concerned with,” he said.

While the regulations are not as strict as what Wilmington had put in place, state law is still ambiguous on what local governments can restrict when it comes to private property — something that will likely become clearer after the Wilmington lawsuit is settled.

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