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Noise management on Isle of Palms

By Blake Bunch

Since its earliest form of development, Isle of Palms has been a destination for summer-seeking vacationers. Although a predominantly residential island, a fair amount of rental properties sprinkle the island beginning on Front Beach, running along Palm Blvd., through Forest Trail and onwards into Wild Dunes. Many of these are run by rental agencies, but quite a few are managed by individual owners, and over the past couple of years, the City’s new Livability Court and Officer have been working to keep a happy balance between renters and permanent residents; particularly in regards to the enforcement of the City’s noise ordinance.

Ordinance 9-2-5 of the Town of Isle of Palms states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to create, or assist in creating, permit, continue, or permit the continuance of any unreasonably loud or disturbing noise in the City.” Like many ordinances, several different points and perspectives could be taken.

Livability Officer Sgt. Jamey Meekins recently presented the differences between short-term rentals, both through agencies and private owners, of the years 2009-10. In his presentation, he pointed out that in 2009 there were 196 total complaints, as opposed to the 181 recorded complaints as of September 30 of this year. Sgt. Meekins also pointed out that, as of the same date, there has been a 34.6% decrease in noise complaints from home managed by rental agencies. On the same note, he pointed out that there was a 64.5% increase in noise complaints from short-term rentals through private owners.

“People tend to think this only happens at night,” said Lt. Ray Wright of the Isle of Palms Police Department in regards to the noise complaints. “However, I see it as a seasonal issue. During the fall/winter/spring months, people aren’t hiding inside in their air conditioning, and dogs are out in the yard barking.” Of short-term rentals through agencies, he said, “I feel like they place a great deal of emphasis on signage in regards to the ordinances, trash pick-up, and general rules that come with island life.”

The Isle of Palms had 80 founded noise complaints, which means that a ticket was issued, and 101 unfounded complaints so far in 2010. If a specific property is visited with several noise complaints it is deemed as a “nuisance.” The police department then notifies Douglas Kerr, the Building Director of Isle of Palms, and the case is brought before City Council. Council can then revoke the rental license, typically for a period of six months. Although this may sound a bit astounding, there was only one case this past year in which a commercial rental license was revoked. Lt. Wright said that in his ten years with the IOPPD that this is only the second case of a business license revocation.

According to Meekins’ report, the trend over the past two years is that noise violations are slowly declining.

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