Planning & Zoning commission denies hotel overlay elimination proposal

Planning & Zoning commission denies hotel overlay elimination proposal
Broad Street. Source:

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A lot of hotel rooms in Charleston will be full with the 40th annual Cooper River Bridge Run, but a ruling by the City of Charleston Planning and Zoning commission could make it easier for more hotels to open downtown.

Thursday evening, the commission turned down a proposal to eliminate dozens of areas of the hotel overlay district downtown. If those properties were to be eliminated them from the overlay, it would make it harder for them to become a hotel.

The overlay district was determined by multiple research studies.

The commissioners voted 5-2, denying the proposal to eliminate the 86 locations in the district scattered along what is called "the spine of the peninsula". Some of the commissioners voiced concern with the legality and fairness of the overlay selections.

Downtown residents, like Tish Lynn, support adjusting the overlay and eliminating certain areas of it.

"There are 15 hotels within a 5 block radius of my home and there are 5 more to be built," Lynn said. "There just has to be some sort of limitations to the amount of hotels that can be built."

Hilton Smith III, another downtown resident, did not concur with eliminating 86 locations. Smith's family has owned multiple properties downtown for decades including one of the proposed eliminations.

"It doesn't seem fair," Smith said. "If we ever did want to do development of some sort, we wouldn't be able to. We'd have to go to the city, we'd have to go to the county, and get that permission to bring it back into the overlay and, as many people said tonight, that's pretty much impossible."

Regardless of opinions, the influx of hotels on the peninsula is evident.

"[Hotels] bring traffic, congestion and make the quality of life more challenging for those who live here as residences," Lynn said.

In 2016, Charleston had an 80.90% occupancy rate and added 150 hotel rooms downtown. More than 1,000 rooms are already scheduled to be added by 2019.

"I know that there are peaks and troughs in a market and, right now, we're in the peak," Smith said. "Put a moratorium, slow things down, don't allow us to do 1,000 in a year and zero when things get bad. This has to flatten out."

All seem to agree maintaining Charleston's charm is a priority.

"There could be many other solutions to this problem that could be more comprehensive," Lynn said.

"I think that there's a better way of doing it and maintaining that charm," Smith said.

Although the commissioners denied the proposal, they all seemed to agree that something does need to be done about the influx of hotels on the peninsula. Commissioners said this proposal was not the appropriate way to rectify the issue.