Lolita Huckaby

Lowcountry Lowdown


By Lolita Huckaby

Short-term rentals’ future faces vote in Folly Beach

BEAUFORT – There’s a vote taking place up the road in Folly Beach this week that folks in Beaufort – especially those concerned about the impact of short-term rentals on the local housing market – might want to pay attention to.

By the time this edition of The Island News rolls off the presses, the results of the Feb. 7 local referendum will be known – whether the town will limit the number of STR’s to 800.

Currently the beach-front community has 2,600 properties, of which more than 1,000 are short-term rentals.

The question is being posed to Folly Beach voters because enough of them were concerned about what was happening to their community while the Town Council took no action to impose changes.

True, the state legislature has discussed taking away the authority of local governments to limit things like short-term rentals so the town and county councils have to proceed carefully.

There’s also the knowledge that even if the ordinance is passed, it will be challenged in court. (Beaufort County residents are hearing that a lot as well. Case in point: the county staff’s efforts to amend the Pine Island Cultural Protection Overlay District because of perceived legal shortfalls in that ordinance.)

For those who support short-term rentals as a way to suplement their income, or more directly, a way to hold on to property that may have been in their families for generations, the vote is an argument against the stripping of property rights. Kind of like “zoning” is construed by some to take away the right to do with one’s property what one wishes.

Folly Beach, like other popular destinations, is also seeing an increase in number of short-term rentals owned by corporate real estate operations, not just private investors.

But the short-term issue, which has been debated on and off by elected officials in Beaufort, Port Royal and the county for years, is seen as something more sinister, according to one Post and Courier columnist: the issue is seen as “another battle for the community’s soul.”

That’s a term that’s bantered about here in this part of the Lowcountry as well. It’s used by people who have lived their whole lives here and are distressed by the increased traffic, the increase in “new faces” and the destruction of wooded acres.

It’s also being used more and more by “newcomers” who see the changes and warn that they’ve seen similar results of over-development in places they moved from.

The town of Hilton Head Island’s first STR regulations went into effect last month although the practice has been in place for years. At least one survey of on-line STR’s for the island showed approximately 7,000 available properties.

There’s no current talk, at least not publicly, about changing Beaufort’s STR ordinance, which has been in place since 2011 with 203 properties now listed at city hall.

There’s much more talk about the need for “affordable housing” but one would think, with apartment complex projects being approved especially in the Burton and Port Royal area, that pain would be somewhat eased.

How many “battles for the community soul” can there be?

New businesses escalate ‘battle’ for employees

BEAUFORT – Local media reports, mixed with an abundance of online rumors and sidewalk gossip, are bolstering our winter spirits with the word of new dining and shopping experiences coming our way.

The Beaufort Gazette reported last week construction could start any month now on the buildings anticipated to occupy the new Beaufort Station, at the corner of Robert Smalls Parkway and Paris Island Gateway.

The formerly heavily wooded 31 acres was stripped of trees months ago, to the surprise of many who didn’t realize the latest range commercial businesses coming this way.

Included in the list of new stores, along with an Aldi’s grocery, is Hobby Lobby, Old Navy, Rack Room Shoes, Petsmart and TJ Maxx as well as another Parker’s gas station. Providing those leases take place as rumored, that means the Petsmart and TJ Maxx across the street in the Cross Creek shopping center will probably sit empty for a while but hopefully not for long.

And, again, according to the internet, we see there’s another breakfast-lunch chain, First Watch, scheduled for opening on Robert Smalls Parkway, near the Cross Creek shopping center.

Just like fans of a new Harris Teeter on Lady’s Island, lovers of the Cook-Out hamburgers are still waiting for the N.C.-based chain to open up. The burger place filed permits with the city last year to demolish the former Golden Corral restaurant on Robert Smalls Parkway and build a new structure, complete with … ready? … a drive-through window.

It looks like Chipotle and Five Guys in the Beaufort Plaza may crank up their grills first.

We know, thanks to Facebook, that Blackstone’s on Scott Street has a new owner, Jake Higgins, who has taken over the helm from Lou and Annamaria Gaudio, who bought the place from Roger Alley in 2016.

And alas, there is a closing. Again thanks to Facebook, we learn Dukes Barbecue, which has filled many an empty stomach on Thursdays and Fridays since at least the 1980s, has closed its doors on Old Salem Road. Too bad all those new homeowners moving into the residences springing from the earth “out that way” will have to look elsewhere for their Southern culinary fixes like banana pudding and barbecue hash.

With all this coming-and-goings in the restaurant business, as well as proposed retail shops, one has to wonder – where are the employees going to come from?

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and newspaper columnist. In her former role as a reporter with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today, she prided herself in trying to stay neutral and unbiased. As a columnist, these are her opinions. Her goal is to be factual but opinionated, based on her own observations. Feel free to contact her at bftbay@gmail.com.

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