Council decides fate of Myrtle Beach bed and breakfast district

Myrtle Beach City Council denied an ordinance that would allow bed and breakfasts in residential neighborhoods.

The ordinance was proposed by city resident Susan Lynch as an overlay district, giving city officials control over the number of rooms rented out and parking. But council members expressed concerns the district would put commercial uses in a private sector.

“As nice as a bed and breakfast could be, it’s still in the middle of a neighborhood, and I just can’t support this based on the facts,” councilman Mike Lowder said. “If it was going to be in an area where we already have transient accommodations … I could really support this.”

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The motion was denied by six council members. Mayor Brenda Bethune voted in favor of the overlay district.

In August, Lynch proposed the district, which would limit bed and breakfasts to certain neighborhoods. Anybody wanting to open their home as a bed and breakfast would have to be individually approved.

“This is my home and my neighborhood, and my intention is not at all to bring in in short-term rentals because I don’t want that either,” Lynch said.

Lynch moved into her four-bedroom home seven years ago. The house, which was built in the 1920s, was formerly known as the Pine Whispers boarding house. According to Lynch, stars like Bette Davis stayed at the house.

“It’s a matter of time before houses like mine are torn down and condos go up,” Lynch said. “My neighborhood is not a quiet little neighborhood.”

Her home, located on the ocean side of U.S. 17 Business, is surrounded by a Jewish synagogue and oceanfront timeshares. Lynch said trucks often drive down her street, which is wider than normal because it was the former entrance to the Ocean Forest Hotel.

Lynch’s hope was to preserve the history of her home and to give visitors a unique Myrtle Beach experience.

“We have 60,000 hotel rooms and we’re having trouble filling them? Is that what I heard you say?” she said. “Maybe we need something a little different.”

Bethune agreed with Lynch, saying “I think it’s an asset to Myrtle Beach. I think it’s something we are missing.”

Bethune referenced cities like Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, where bed and breakfasts are allowed in residential neighborhoods.

Council disagreed, saying there are several areas in the city already zoned for transient accommodations.

“I’m real concerned we aren’t Charleston and we aren’t Savannah,” councilwoman Mary Jeffcoat said. “We have plenty of options for our visitors.”

Jeffcoat said if the idea was proposed in the southern part of the city, she would support it, but that “we need to protect the few residential neighborhoods we have.”

Planning director Carol Coleman said the district would not only give city officials control over rooms and parking, but it also could help to set rules for AirBNB, a website used to find short-term rental homes.

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Coleman hinted that people already are renting out their homes in some residential areas, “and we might not know it.”

Lowder agreed with Jeffcoat, saying the city already has dedicated time and money toward ridding residential neighborhoods from having transient housing.

“It takes a pretty crazy person to want to open a bed and breakfast,” Lynch said. “It does. It’s a lot of work, but I have a hospitable heart.”