Short-term rental licenses on Folly Beach officially capped to 800

A months-long discussion came to an end Tuesday night as voters decided on the fate of short-term rentals on Folly Beach.
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 11:07 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2023 at 11:28 PM EST
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FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WCSC) - A months-long discussion came to an end Tuesday night as voters decided on the fate of short-term rentals on Folly Beach.

Just 78 votes ended up separating the debate of the number of short-term rental licenses allowed on Folly Beach. The final vote rang Tuesday night after lines at the polls began at 7 a.m. officially capping the number of rentals, like condos and Airbnbs, to 800 across the island.

There were more than 1,200 people that voted, which is about half of the number of registered voters on the island.

“This is probably the most people I’ve ever seen vote, even in a presidential election, that I can remember,” Goodwin said.

This special citizen vote tallies 655 voters for the cap on short-term rentals and 577 against it.

This issue stems back to October when a citizen petition to cap the number of short-term rentals came to city council, which was then put up to a citizen vote.

Ann Peets, who supports the cap, says she doesn’t want the permanent residents leaving because of disruptive renters.

“It’s a very tight-knit community and we feel like if people keep leaving that’s going to be lost,” Peets said.

Those against the cap on rentals, like Elton Culpepper, says he doesn’t want his kids to not have a rental option on inherited property.

“I feel like the property value will go down and they should be able to short term rental it,” Culpepper said.

Bill Murschel says he’s been renting on the island for over 25 years. Although he could not vote, he says he worries how this would affect his vacations.

“I don’t want to be priced out of the market,” Murschel said. “I want to have plenty of choices when I contact a local real estate office and pick my place.”

Mayor Goodwin says he signed the original petition and voted for the STR cap.

“We know they bring in tax dollars,” Goodwin said. “We never want to see short term rentals go away totally. It’s just where do you want your city to be in reference to a community versus businesses.”

He was asked if he thinks this will have any effect on people investing on Folly Beach in the future.

“I don’t think so,” Goodwin said. “You know, before this got started, like I said, the number was 800. That didn’t stop people from buying and selling out here... Nobody’s going to be totally happy with the vote. So, now it’s just a matter of the community coming back together and healing and let’s get on with the rest of the world.”

Goodwin says it will take several years for the number of current STRs to dwindle down to 800 from either people selling their property or no longer renewing their licenses. He says there’s currently around 1,200 on the island.

The vote will be certified on Thursday and will immediately take effect.