BASE Comments to Southport Planning Board on Short Term Rentals

At their meeting on May 20, the Southport Planning Board is set to hold a public hearing on proposed Short Term Rental Regulations. Prior to their meeting, BASE submitted the following comments:


At your meeting this evening, you are set to consider enhancements to the Southport’s Short Term Rental Ordinance. Due to specifics of the ordinance, the undefined issues it is attempting to solve and other similar ordinances tied up legally, we encourage you NOT to approve the proposal as presented.

As Wilmington can attest, a hastily adopted Short Term Rental ordinance can quickly be deemed “void and unenforceable.”

As we all know, Southport is a major destination community with a huge tourism component. As a region, we continue to see significant economic benefit from lodging options that meet the needs of a range of potential visitors, guests and local citizens. As we move forward, the community will have a growing need to embrace mixes of housing options and opportunities within in its small footprint.


Unfortunately, there isn’t a silver bullet to address the perceived short term rental problem. This is further supported by the wide range of approaches by other communities in a range of states have tried—and failed—to get their arms around this complex property rights issue. Based on the experiences of other cities in North Carolina and the fact that entities like the UNC School of Government, General Assembly and Real Estate Commission haven’t weighed in with clear guidance, we would reiterate the path forward is unclear.


As proposed, the ordinance will do many things, but chief among them is create definitions and separate criteria for home stays and short term vacation rentals. Both types will require annual permits. Home stays will require someone on site at all times. Short term vacation rentals will be restricted to being located in non-residential zoning districts. This appears to be a solution looking for a problem, rather than a fix for an actual issue.


Throughout the process of discussing this proposed ordinance, the concerns that we have heard regarding short term rentals don’t really deal with the short term or long-term length of stay—it seems to be more about the behavior of the potential occupant. Thus, the issue is really about enforcement. As yet, we have not seen specific data on noise or trash or parking infractions directly tied to short term rentals in Southport. If an ordinance moves forward, the City will have to invest in administration, staff and technology to administer this ordinance. If we are going to create a new City department and staff it, is short term rental enforcement the most pressing need?


In closing, while we appreciate the hard work, we would like to formally request that this issue be set aside. We support the other organizations, businesses, citizens and property owners that have expressed concerns with this proposal.  Instead of being mired down with this topic, we would encourage you to look at other ways to make Southport a welcoming place for residents, business owners, property owners and businesses.

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