Sunday, July 3, 2022

Short-term rentals suspended from Topsail Island to Sunset Beach, no announcement yet from Wrightsville Beach [Free read]

Oak Island, pictured, declared a state of emergency on Saturday, discontinuing all short-term rental operations to reduce the possible community spread of Covid-19. (Port City Daily photo/Mark Darrough)

UPDATE (5:25 p.m. Tuesday) — Kure Beach Council voted unanimously to join other regional coastal towns in discontinuing all short-term rental operations. The vote occurred at 5:25 p.m. on Tuesday.

This followed a release sent by Carolina Beach at 4:20 p.m. Tuesday to also prohibit short-term rental operations, leaving Wrightsville Beach as the only beach town in Pender, Brunswick, and New Hanover counties to not enforce a similar measure.

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA — Most beach towns along the Cape Fear coastline used various states of emergency to suspend short-term home rentals on Monday to prevent community spread of Covid-19 cases. Meanwhile, the New Hanover County towns of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach have not yet made a decision on the matter.

Many decisions took place at various times on Monday, mirroring a similar wave of emergency measures put into place on Friday to close beaches along the state’s southeastern coast.

RELATED: New Hanover County confirms 5 new Covid-19 positive results bringing total to 9

Most towns implemented requirements for rental agencies and property owners to instruct current renters, with rental periods less than three months, to vacate the properties and leave town limits. Oak Island required occupants to vacate and leave town by 2 p.m. on Tuesday; Surf City and Ocean Isle Beach by 2 p.m. on Wednesday; and Holden Beach by 2 p.m. on Sunday (see each town’s restrictions below).

The village of Bald Head Island was the first to implement the prohibition, which it did through its state of emergency issued last Thursday, requiring all short-term rental occupants to leave the island by 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. Southport followed suit, requiring short-term renters to also exit city limits by 2 p.m. last Sunday (however, an amended proclamation released early Tuesday evening said renters now have until 2 p.m. on March 26).

Meanwhile, Topsail Beach said current renters could “fulfill the existing written contract period” until April 4.

At an emergency meeting early Monday evening, Kure Beach leaders met via teleconference to continue discussions of the town’s response to the regional spread of Covid-19 cases.

Mayor Pro Tem David Heglar, also the town’s emergency coordinator, told fellow councilmembers he believed a decision to suspend rentals would lead to all three of the town’s restaurants to shut down completely, which would mean no more take-out and delivery services in the town.

Heglar called it a difficult decision — a tradeoff between health benefits and the town’s lifestyle — and hoped the issue is addressed by Governor Roy Cooper and his medical staff during a meeting with regional leaders tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. He had already asked the New Hanover County Health Department for guidance, he said, and was awaiting their input.

“Short-term rentals is one of those issues that I’m not sure what the right answer is, and neither does anyone else, including the health professionals,” Heglar told fellow commissioners. “And towns are doing multiple things.”

Further north, Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens said there has been no decision yet regarding short-term rentals.

“We have not made the decision to shut down short-term rentals,” Owens said late Monday afternoon. “It’s something we have discussed but we have not made that decision yet. So we’re allowing rentals at this point.”

North Topsail Beach issued a statement around 4 p.m. on Monday saying leaders of the three towns located on the island agreed to restrict vacation rentals for a short period of time “to limit community exposure and protect local resources such as food and medical supplies.” Unlike Surf City and Topsail Beach, however, it did not yet issue a specific discontinuation of short-term rentals.

On Tuesday, it caught up with its neighboring towns, restricting short-term rentals with enforcement to begin on Saturday, March 28. Like Topsail Beach, renters who have “checked in” will be allowed to finish the current terms of their contracts.

Below, read the specific actions concerning short-term rentals and other emergency measures taken by beach towns in Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick counties (listed from north to southwest).

North Topsail Beach

North Topsail Beach issued a release late Tuesday morning prohibiting all short-term rentals, with enforcement to begin on Saturday. The specifics include:

  • No requirement for current renters to leave immediately: Renters who have “checked in” but whose current agreement extends beyond March 28 will be allowed to finish the current terms of their contracts, but will not be allowed to extend their stays.
  • Timeframe: Enforcement begins on Saturday, March 28 and will last through April 25.
  • Exemptions: Essential public services are exempt (ie. those working on military special orders or utility workers).

“Elected officials are actively monitoring the situation and will adjust restrictions as circumstances dictate,” according to Tuesday’s release.

Surf City

Effective at 2 p.m. on Monday, the town of Surf City began implementing additional measures regarding the Covid-19 pandemic, including discontinuance of all short-term rental operations. The specifics include:

  • Leave by 2 p.m. Wednesday: All rental agencies and property owners are instructed to instruct all current renters (with a rental period less than 3 months) and their invitees vacate the premises and leave the town no later than 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
  • No new rentals: There will be no new rental occupancies of a duration less than 90 days allowed in Surf City.
  • Exemptions: “Individuals and entities renting within the Town for purposes directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic or related to the provision of other essential public services are exempted” from the short-term rental prohibition.
  • Timeline: The provision will be effective for 30 days from the date of proclamation, which means it is currently set to expire on February 23.

Other provisions in the town’s state of emergency include:

  • Surf City urges all travel to be limited to essential travel for property owners, residents, business owners and their employees, contractors, and municipal employees and contractors.

Topsail Beach

The southernmost town on Topsail Island updated its state of emergency at 4 p.m. on Monday, discontinuing all short-term rental operations, effective on 5 p.m. Monday. Details of the prohibition include:

  • No requirement for current renters to leave immediately: Any individuals currently occupying rental property may fulfill the existing written contract period but no later than April 4.
  • Exemptions: Individuals or entities renting for purposes of providing essential public services, including the town’s channel dredging and beach restoration project, permanent residents living in rentals due to construction of their homes, private contractors working on projects with a valid building permit, or those working on projects authorized by state or federal agencies.
  • Timeline: There will be no new rental occupancies, shorter than 90 day-periods, allowed in the town until April 22 (two months after its effective date).

Wrightsville Beach

“We have not made the decision to shut down short-term rentals,” Town Manager Tim Owens said late Monday afternoon. “It’s something we have discussed but we have not made that decision yet. So we’re allowing rentals at this point.”

Carolina Beach

UPDATE (4:45 p.m. Tuesday) — Town council voted to discontinue all short-term rental operations. Renters with terms less than 90 days have until 2 p.m. on Friday, March 27 to vacate the premises.

“Furthermore, effective immediately, there will be no new rental occupancies with rental terms of less than 90 days allowed within the Town of Carolina Beach, until April 22, 2020 or the order has been rescinded,” according to the release.

According to town clerk Kim Ward, the possibility of suspending short-term rentals was discussed at a council meeting late Monday afternoon, but no decision was made regarding the matter.

Council is waiting for a conference call between regional leaders and Governor Cooper scheduled for Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., according to Ward. Another council meeting will then be held two hours later to discuss short-term rentals and what the governor and his team have advised.

Kure Beach

UPDATE (5:45 p.m. Tuesday) — Town council voted unanimously to discontinue all short-term rental operations. Renters with terms less than 90 days have until Saturday, March 28 at noon to vacate the premises.

Effective immediately, there will be no new rental occupancies, with terms less than 90 days, allowed until April 22 or until this order has been rescinded.

Individuals renting within the town for purposes directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic, or related to providing essential services, are exempted from this order.

Kure Beach Council has not yet suspended short-term rentals. During an emergency meeting held at 5 p.m. on Monday, Mayor Pro Tem and Emergency Coordinator David Heglar predicted such a move would force the three restaurants in Kure Beach to shut down completely, meaning no more pick-up or delivery options would be available in the town.

“Short-term rentals is one of those issues that I’m not sure what the right answer is, and neither does anyone else, including the health professionals,” Heglar told fellow commissioners. “It’s a tough question. I don’t know the right answer.”

“It is a difficult question,” Mayor Craig Bloszinsky replied. “When we do this in a hurricane, normally we have already evacuated the island. You’re talking about making this happen when the island isn’t effectively evacuated. And that is a much bigger issue, a much bigger question. And what do you do with rental companies, and people who have already made deposits?”

Like Carolina Beach, the town is awaiting a conference call between regional leaders and Governor Cooper scheduled for Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. before making a decision.

Bald Head Island

The village of Bald Head Island was the first to close down short-term rentals among coastal towns in the region, issuing the order in its state of emergency declared on March 19. Details of the prohibition include:

  • Vacate properties and leave island by Sunday, March 22: All rental agencies and property owners were instructed to have all current renters, for a rental period of less than a 3-month duration, and their invitees vacate the premises and leave the island by 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 22.
  • No exemptions: There will be no new rental occupancies of any nature or duration allowed on the Island. 

Southport

UPDATE (5:55 p.m. Tuesday) — The city of Southport released an amended proclamation early Tuesday evening stating current short-term renters now have until March 26 — as opposed to the original March 22 deadline — to vacate premises and exit city limits.

The amendment also added: “This prohibition and restriction applies to vacation rentals, short term rentals, bed and breakfast establishments, Airbnb, VRBO, hotels, motels, inns, and similar businesses and establishments.

The city of Southport declared a state of emergency on Saturday, March 21, which included a prohibition of short-term rentals. Details include:

  • Leave by 2 p.m. Tuesday: All renters with a rental period less than a 3-month duration, and all their invitees, are ordered to vacate premises and leave the city of Southport by 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 22.
  • No new rentals: There shall be no new rental occupancies of any nature or duration within Southport.
  • Exemptions: Motels and hotels and people staying a hotels and motels are excluded from this mandate by North Carolina law, according to the state of emergency.

Oak Island

Oak Island prohibited short-term rentals via a state of emergency declared on Saturday, and issued an amendment on Monday that the declaration “shall become effective immediately and shall remain in effect until April 30, 2020 or is otherwise modified or rescinded.” Details of the prohibition include:

  • Leave by 2 p.m. Tuesday: All renters with a rental period less than a 3-month duration, and all their invitees, are ordered to vacate premises and leave the town by 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24.
  • No new rentals: The town has ordered no new rental occupancies of a duration less than 90 days until April 30.
  • Exemptions: Individuals and entities renting for the purpose directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic, or related to providing other essential public services, are exempted from this prohibition.

“The Town also strongly discourages non-essential travel within the Town,” according to the Monday release. The town urges all travel to be limited to essential travel for property owners and residents, business owners and their employees and contractors, and municipal employees and contractors.

Holden Beach

Holden Beach issued a state of emergency around 2 p.m. on Monday. It was then amended to discontinue short-term rentals, which included the following:

  • Leave by 2 p.m. Saturday: All renters with a rental period less than a 3-month duration, and their all invitees, are ordered to vacate premises and leave the town by 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 28.
  • Timeframe: Effective Monday afternoon, no new short-term rental occupancies are allowed until at least April 4.
  • No exemptions: No exemptions were listed in the amended state of emergency.

Other prohibitions and restrictions in Monday’s amendment include:

  • All public parking and parking within the town’s rights-of-way is prohibited with the exception of town employees, government officials, and contractors.

Ocean Isle Beach

Ocean Isle Beach declared a state of emergency on Monday, including discontinuing short-term rentals. Details include:

  • Leave by 2 p.m. Saturday: All renters with a rental period less than a 3-month duration, and their all invitees, are ordered to vacate premises and leave the town by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25.
  • Timeframe: There will be no new rental occupancies of any nature or duration allowed in the town until April 6, 2020.
  • No exemptions: No exemptions were listed.

The state of emergency also closed all public parking lots and spaces and right-of-way parking with the exception of town employees, government officials, and contractors. All one-way streets that provide public parking will be closed.

Sunset Beach

At the town’s emergency meeting held at 3 p.m. on Monday, the mayor and Council voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency, including the prohibition of short-term rentals. Details include:

  • Leave by 5 p.m. on Thursday: All rental agencies and property owners that currently have short-term rental occupants are required to notify occupants that they must vacate premises and exit town limits by 5 p.m. Thursday, March 26.
  • Timeframe: No new short-term rental occupancies of any nature or duration are allowed until April 22.
  • No exemptions: No exemptions were listed.

The state of emergency also closed all public parking lots and spaces and right-of-way parking until further notice.


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