City of Southport approves ordinance limiting vacation rentals

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SOUTHPORT, NC (WWAY) — The Board of Aldermen in Southport has approved a new ordinance limiting short-term rentals after months of debate among residents.

The city estimates there are currently more than 100 homes acting as vacation rentals in the city, although some residents question how that number was determined.

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Many of these homes are listed through Airbnb and Vrbo, as well as local property management companies.

Neighbors who support the ordinance have concerns about rowdy groups renting these homes in residential areas.

“It’s been like the wild west, especially when law enforcement has to get together and get involved with settling down these rambunctious visitors that are coming and stopping in our town,” said resident Ginger Harper. “They’re fighting among themselves and smoking pot out in the streets!”

“Last week we had a group that looked very scary,” said Tracy Beaulieu. “They were walking up and down the street smoking pot.”

Those who oppose the ordinance question the frequency of these incidents.

“Have we had more police calls?” asked Rebecca Kelley. “Is there more crime that can be actually attributed to the short-term rentals?”

Some also arguing that renting out to vacationers is sometimes a matter of necessity, allowing them for afford their Southport homes.

“I personally used my home as an AirBnb a while back when economically we had some issues and needed to be able to survive,” said Melissa Bell.

The ordinance, approved by the Board of Alderman in a 4-2 vote, prevents new short term rentals from being set up in residential areas. Current homes can be grandfathered in if they can prove they were operating as a short-term rental before the ordinance went into effect.

Those being grandfathered in must apply for a permit and renew it each year. An earlier draft of the ordinance mandated that a home would lose its short-term rental status if it did not operate for 180 consecutive days. It was amended to allow leeway for those renting out long-term.

If a home is sold or if the permit is not renewed in time, it will lose its short-term rental status.

Mayor Joseph Hatem says he feels council voted in the best interest of Southport residents.

“Having short term rentals, particularly in the historic district, and having them unbridled, unregulated, is not what the citizens want and they made that clear tonight,” Hatem said.

Marc Spencer and Lora Sharkey cast the dissenting votes.

You can read the ordinance here.

Some homeowners say they plan to take legal action against the City of Southport.