Note: Published articles, links or extracts appearing here are believed by CNA to contain information of interest to CNA members. They do not necessarily represent views or opinions of the CNA Board or Membership.

Historic neighborhoods unite against short term rentals

The fundamental character of our historic residential neighborhoods is under assault by illegal short- term rentals.
Under current zoning laws, short-term rentals are illegal in neighborhoods zoned only for residential use (except approved bed and breakfast rentals meeting certain requirements). Yet, with the advent of internet sites providing an easy way for booking, illegal short-term rentals have proliferated in our neighborhoods due to monetary incentives and the absence of rigorous enforcement by the city.

The undersigned residential neighborhood associations (representing residents of most historic neighborhoods) join to petition the city not to change the current zoning laws prohibiting short term rentals, except to increase the penalties and to enhance enforcement against those who choose to violate city zoning laws. Residents of our neighborhoods bought their properties and improved them in reliance on the neighborhoods being zoned primarily residential, not commercial. Our neighborhoods have a right to expect residential, not commercial uses, and certainly not illegal uses.

The owners illegally renting their property as short-term rentals bought their residentially zoned property with the full knowledge that commercial use, including short-term rentals, is illegal in Charleston’s neighborhoods. They knew or should have known that their zoning prohibited short-term rentals.

The unfairness of short term rentals to all other residents of the neighborhood was amply demonstrated again just recently when a house on Atlantic Street was rented for a college graduation celebration. From 50 to 100 young people had a three-day party spilling into the street lasting into the early morning hours.

The neighbors complained to them and ultimately to the police when two celebrants took a neighbor’s golf cart for a joy ride.

The property is owned by an out-of-state investment company in Illinois. Indeed, we believe that this owner has booked this property solidly for the next few months. Do owners such as this pay the business, license, property taxes and proper insurance that the owners of legal bed and breakfast rentals have to pay?

Our neighborhood associations have received frequent complaints about short-term rentals, including parking, noise, trash, rudeness, threatening behavior, indecent behavior, and loss of the quiet enjoyment of their property.

Our neighborhood associations are increasingly alarmed by the failure of the city to enforce its zoning laws prohibiting short-term rentals in our neighborhoods (and probably other neighborhoods in the city). Our residents are being denied the quiet enjoyment of their property and neighborhood by those flouting the city’s zoning laws.

Despite a number of neighbors providing proof not only of the rentals but the advertising of rentals, the city has dragged its heels in enforcing the laws. Even when the city sends a letter of warning, owners of illegal rentals often ignore these letters because the city has failed to prosecute violators in Charleston’s Livability Court to impose fines that should be levied. The fines are only a fraction of the illegal revenue obtained from short-term rentals.

By failing to enforce the short-term rental zoning laws, the city is in effect allowing neighborhoods that are zoned primarily as single-family residential to be converted into a commercial, but unregulated, hotel district. Residents who purchased and maintained their residences on the basis of the neighborhood being zoned single-family residential are being deprived of their zoning rights and subjected to the disruption, noise, nuisances, and loss of parking that comes with many of these short-term renters.

In summary, we oppose any change in the existing zoning laws prohibiting short-term rentals, except to stiffen the penalties and enhance the enforcement capabilities of the city. Vigorous enforcement by the city is required to protect the livability of historic neighborhoods and the preservation of unique areas so important to our local economy and the nation as a whole.


Ginny Bush is president of the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association. Randy Pelzer is vice president. The neighborhood associations of Ansonborough, Cannonborough-Elliottborough, French Quarter and Harleston Village signed on to this op-ed.

May CNA Membership Meeting

The May 15 CNA membership meeting focused on livability and quality of life issues currently affecting our neighborhood and the ongoing efforts by CNA to promote enforcement of existing ordinances.  Erosion of livability and quality of residential life has increased with the growth of tourism and development in downtown Charleston.

Jerry Smith (co-chair of the Crime Prevention and Police Protection Committee) led a presentation regarding livability issues that have recently intensified, including:

  • excessively loud motorcycle noise, especially from groups cruising on weekend nights on routes generally including East Bay, King Street and White Point Gardens;
  • trespassing and property damage by youths collecting palmetto fronds from private property and illegal peddling of palmetto roses (as distinguished from the City-sponsored artisan rose program by licensed children in designated areas at the City Market, Waterfront Park, etc);
  • vehicle and home break-ins; and
  • animal waste and littering.

Larry Gillespie described the rapidly growing incidence of illegal short term rentals in our neighborhood and the consequences to neighboring residents of this commercial accommodation use in violation of residential zoning laws.  A short term rental (less than 30 days) of a house is illegal and sometimes become “party houses,” unlike licensed and regulated Bed & Breakfast or inn operations that do not adversely affect residents’ livability and quality of life.

Mr. Smith’s presentation was accompanied by numerous graphs and charts analyzing complaints received by the Police and Livability & Tourism departments over recent years as well as incident reports collected by enforcement officials.  Security camera footage and photos illustrated the nature of several ordinance violations.  For more detailed data and analysis, click here to view slides from the presentation:

Part 1:
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Part 3:

Messrs. Smith and Gillespie, along with other CNA Board and Committee members, have met with a number of police and livability officials to discuss feasible ways for the city to increase enforcement of ordinances.  The Charleston Police Department recently began patrols to address excessive motorcycle noise (revving of engines and speeding). Efforts to meet with and support increased city enforcement are ongoing.

CNA members are invited to contact CNA by emailing with comments, questions or suggestions for additional livability issues that should be addressed.

In the near future, CNA proposes to conduct a member survey and initiate informal discussion sessions on specific topics.  These sessions are intended to enable interested CNA members and CNA Committee representatives to explore the issues and develop feasible solutions.  Ideally, recommended solutions could be presented to city officials and/or the Tourism Commission, as appropriate.


King Tides will return to Charleston in the coming days, so citizens are encouraged to be aware of local weather conditions and the possibility of flooding.

Rainfall is also forecasted this week, increasing the chances of flooded roadways in certain low-lying areas.
As little as 12 inches of rushing water can carry a small car away, so remember: Turn Around Don’t Drown.”
High tides periods to be particularly aware of while traveling are:

  • Wednesday, May 24, at 7:40 p.m.
  • Thursday, May 25, at 8:34 p.m.
  • Friday, May 26, at 9:26 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 27, at 10:23 p.m., and
  • Sunday, May 28, at 11:19 p.m.

Amendments to BAR regulations affecting the Old and Historic District

Amendments to BAR regulations affecting the Old and Historic District will be considered at  special meeting of the Planning Commission at 5:00 p.m., on Thursday, May 25, 2017 in the Burke High School Auditorium, 244 President Street.  Amendments generally address the authority of the BAR to consider height, mass and scale of new construction and codify certain policy statements for the BAR’s use in evaluating applications.

While some revisions follow the recommendations of the Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) consulting firm, CNA believes the amendments fail to provide adequate protection for our historic neighborhoods in several respects.
For instance, CNA favors improved notification of BAR applications that would affect adjoining neighbors.  Currently, notices are frequently impossible to read from sidewalks because they are obscured, illegible, cryptic or posted in a remote location; sometimes, notices are not posted at all and the Planning Dept. admits it lacks resources to monitor posted notices.  Even adequately posted notices at a house may not be seen by adjoining neighbors on the rear or side of the subject property.
The Planning Dept staff has stated that residents should monitor  agendas on the City’s website to learn of proposed additions or alterations that may affect them.  CNA does not believe this is an adequate or realistic solution.
Instead, CNA favors requiring an applicant to mail or otherwise provide actual notice to adjoining neighbors, whose identities and addresses are easily determined through property records if they are not known to the applicant.  Some, but not all, architects and owners already notify neighbors, but there is no requirement for such neighborly consideration.
CNA is also concerned that the amendments ignore DPZ’s recommendation that the BAR  should include an architect with appreciation or background in traditional architectural design.  Further, CNA believes the BAR should be required to have one or more members who actually reside in the historic district that the BAR was established to protect.
Comments from concerned neighbors unable to attend the May 25 meeting at Burke High School may be emailed to Christopher Morgan of the Planning Dept. at with the request that he share those comments with the Planning Commission.


Mayor Tecklenburg’s Coronavirus Press Conference Remarks on March 24

Today, at a 2:30 p.m. press conference, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg gave the following remarks regarding the city’s continued efforts to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19:

Good afternoon.

For the past several weeks, governments and residents across our state have been working to slow the onset of the coronavirus pandemic here in South Carolina.

Schools and city public buildings have been closed. Bars and restaurants have stopped serving onsite. Large gatherings have been banned, and citizens have been urged to stay home, stay distanced and stay smart.

But with yesterday's announcement that the Covid-19 pandemic has officially reached the acceleration phase in our our state, we must now take even more dramatic action, while there's still time to save thousands of lives right here in Charleston by flattening the curve.

That's why, in light of the large gatherings we've seen in public spaces both here and around the country, I've today ordered the temporary closure of all city parks and playgrounds.

And it's why I will tonight introduce a citywide stay at home ordinance for emergency action by our City Council.

Put simply, this ordinance would require the closure of non-essential businesses here in the city of Charleston, and direct our citizens to stay at home, except for necessary trips to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or for other essential services and activities. This action would last for a period of 14 days, and would be taken under the city's broad emergency authority to protect public health and safety during times of emergency.

But before we take that step, I believe we owe our citizens and business owners a clear explanation of the facts that make this emergency action necessary.

First, there's the fact that our state public health agency, DHEC, has now officially told us that the coronavirus pandemic is in the acceleration phase in our state. This means that there is significant community spread, and that we've entered the period of maximum danger for our citizens, with infection rates and deaths due to this disease set to rise exponentially.

Second, there's the simple fact of population density. Three of the four largest cities in our state sit side by side here in the Lowcountry, with a total population in the hundreds of thousands. We cannot and must not allow this deadly, highly contagious disease to spread uncontrolled among our residents.

And, finally, there are the numbers with regard to the disease itself. Modeling at both Columbia University and here locally shows that Charleston is facing thousands of deaths -- most of them unnecessary -- if we don't stop the spread of this virus and prevent our local hospital system from being overwhelmed right now. This moment -- with the pandemic still in the earliest part of the acceleration phase -- is our last, best chance to keep that tragedy from happening here in our city.

Fellow Charlestonians, yes, the days ahead may be long. They may call for a level of service to others that's uncommon in our age.

But if a lifetime in Charleston has taught me anything, it is this: There is no challenge that we cannot face together. There is no trial that can break our faith. There is no pathogen that can lessen our love for our families, our friends, or our fellow Charlestonians.

We can and will bend the curve on this disease in our community. And we will do it the way we do everything here in Charleston: We'll do it together.
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Mayor Tecklenburg's Coronavirus Press Conference Remarks on March 22:

Today, at a 4:00 p.m. press conference with representatives from Charleston County, the City of North Charleston and the Town of Mount Pleasant Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg gave the following remarks:

With the coronavirus now aggressively spreading across our state and region, we're here today with a simple message for our citizens -- stay home, stay distanced and stay smart.

Doctors tell us that the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 would be nothing less than a death sentence for thousands of our friends and family members right here in the Lowcountry. And the only way to avoid that tragedy is for all of us to start following those three simple rules right now.

Number one, stay home -- and that means just what it says. If you don't have an essential reason to go out, don't go out. The life you save by avoiding that unnecessary trip could turn out to be yours or one of your loved ones. And as difficult as this is to say to our already suffering business owners, you as citizens have a critical role to play, too: If your business is not truly essential during this time, temporarily closing your doors or having your employees work from home now is a hard choice to make -- but it's infinitely better than the economic and social devastation that you and the rest of us will suffer if this virus gets out of control in our area.

Number two, stay distanced. Practicing good social distancing when we have to go out for essential trips to the grocery store or the pharmacy is the best medicine we have to protect ourselves and each other.

And finally, number three, stay smart. Wash your hands. Don't buy all the toilet paper at the grocery store. Don't believe every crazy Facebook rumor that's floating around. And whatever you do, don't go out if you have a cough and fever. That's when you have to self-quarantine immediately and go to MUSC's telehealth website at to get into the system for testing.

The choice facing our community today is simple.

If we follow these rules right now -- if we stay home, stay distanced and stay smart -- we can still avoid being a hotspot, like Italy or New York.

And if we don't follow these rules, we can spend the next few months watching funerals online -- literally, thousands of funerals -- because we won't be able to gather together even to say goodbye to our loved ones.

We're here today to ask our citizens to follow these rules and choose life.

The power is in all of our hands.
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