Folly Beach residents discuss pros and cons of short-term rentals

This issue stems from a citizen petition looking to cap short-term rentals – these are things like Airbnb listings or rented out condos.
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 11:03 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2023 at 11:31 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCSC) - The City of Folly Beach could lose $1.5 million in revenue if they decide to limit short-term rentals – that’s according to a project manager who talked at a community meeting on Wednesday.

At the same meeting residents discussed the pros and cons of capping short-term rental licenses on the island to 800.

This issue stems from a citizen petition looking to cap short-term rentals – these are things like Airbnb listings or rented out condos.

Another major concern came from some real estate agents that spoke Wednesday night. They say they’re having major trouble closing deals because of this potential cap.

Others, like Michael Riffert, say it’s affecting their overall livability.

“Even though it hasn’t even gone to vote yet, I am being impacted right now,” Riffert said.

Riffert has been a builder on the island for more than 16 years. Since the short-term rental cap is still up for debate, he says he’s had to pull two of his homes off the market from buyers’ concerns.

“They see that our property rights are being stepped on and they’re like, ‘We don’t want any part of it. We don’t want to move to this community,’” Riffert said. “And that’s what we’re up against right now.”

Riffert’s livelihood is not the only thing being affected. Others brought up concerns that their lifelong home might slip out from under them. Due to the current license law and moratorium in place, some say their homes might not be able to be passed down to their kids.

Tom Powers is another resident that is against the short-term rental cap.

“To take that away without trying to really make enforcement work that’s just what’s got us trying to fight back against that,” Powers said.

A majority of people at the discussion were against the short-term rental cap. A few people pro-cap were in attendance, but those associated with the Folly Beach Resident Association said they did not feel safe going on camera for fear of personal attacks.

They provided this statement:

Pro-Cap supporters and Folly Beach Resident Association members have been bullied and harassed both in person and online and, therefore, we do not feel safe attending this one-sided event, which could provide the forum for more personal attacks for us and our families.

It is our understanding that officials from the City of Folly Beach will not be in attendance.  Without experts from the City present to factually answer residents’ questions, we don’t feel this forum is a beneficial one and that it could fuel further divisiveness and misinformation.  Therefore, FRA will not be participating in this event.

All Folly Beach voters have access to the facts on our Facebook page, Folly Beach Residents Association and by contacting the City directly with specific questions.

Riffert says he avidly agrees with what city council has done to support their side for the last couple months. He says he understands where the opposing side is coming from.

“We want enforcement,” Riffert said. “We don’t want people to have an issue with a bad house next door.”

Powers says he wants everyone to come together and find a solution.

“Our approach is let’s surgically deal with that instead of, I’ll give my analogy: ‘You got a problem with your big toe, you don’t need to cut off your leg,’” Powers said.

Permanent residents on Folly Beach can cast their ballots on Feb. 7 in favor or against the short-term rental cap.