City of Columbia meets ‘compromise’ for Airbnb operators

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Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 1:30 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The City of Columbia is one step closer to a compromise on how Short-Term Rentals (STR) are operated downtown.

One year after the municipal government proposed a ban on Airbnbs and other STRs, the Ad Hoc Committee tasked with creating an ordinance reached a conclusion on Wednesday night.

The STR Ad Hoc Committee, chaired by Councilman Howard Duvall, was established earlier this year to appease disgruntled neighbors as well as STRs operating in the greater Columbia area.

After months of supervised negotiations between both entities, the committee felt Wednesday’s STR ordinance was ready for the city council.

“[The ordinance] has come a long way since April when we started to work on this draft. It’s gone through multiple iterations… It’s no longer an [STR] ban on all residential neighborhoods like it first was two years ago,” said David Bergmann, owner of Heartwood Furnished Homes.

Bergmann’s management company oversees 90 STR properties across Columbia and surrounding areas, according to the company’s website.

For the past year, Bergmann has stood as the unofficial representative for Columbia-based STRs before the Ad Hoc Committee.

STR members as well as home-owning representatives opposing them tell WIS they’re underwhelmed by the latest ordinance.

Some say the proposal is too strict, while others believe their neighborhood is in jeopardy. Both entities refer to the committee’s nine-page draft as “a compromise.”

If passed, STR owners would be required to pay a non-refundable $50 application fee as well as an annual permit fee of $100 for owner-occupied and $250 for non-owner-occupied listings.

Additional regulations include a mandatory business license for STRs operating in-city with a proposed limitation on how many can operate on an annual basis. The exact number is to be determined.

“I want to complement the STR group we’ve been working with. We’ve all had really good, meaningful discussions. We’ve come a long way from understanding one another’s concerns and tried to reach a middle ground. And I think this is a good one for Columbia,” said Kit Smith, a Wales Garden resident speaking on behalf of the neighbors in the area.

Councilman Duvall said there will be more opportunities for public input as the ordinance makes its way through the city council’s public reading process in 2023. He also said the ordinance could change during this time.

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