LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: City’s new rental ordinance seen as harmful
To the editor, In October 2020 in the middle of a global pandemic the Florence City Council used two impersonal late in the day Zoom meetings which many felt were not adequately publicized to consider and pass a monumental and ﬂawed rental ordinance on the citizens and businesses of Florence. The ordinance is eight pages of various detailed rules—pitched as being aimed exclusively at residential real estate. The rental ordinance as written has many issues; for example, in one line under Sect. 4-914 Criminal Penalties the ordinance says, “ Any person violating any provision of this article shall be guilty of a misdemeanor offense and shall be subject to the penalties outlined in the City Florence Code of Ordinances.” At the time, two past city council members were strongly opposed to the ordinance and two others admitted that the ordinance was ﬂawed, yet they still voted for it. Experts in real estate and homelessness spoke about negative unintended consequences of the rental ordinance such as increased rental costs on tenants, increased costs on landlords, decreased rental options for tenants, increased homelessness, and it will discourage investment. Investment property owners already pay high taxes on their property. This ordinance is extreme government overreach into the ownership and control of private property. Some people in favor of the ordinance presented the rental ordinance as a way to punish the “bad” landlords. It is established there are other and better ways than the rental ordinance for private tenants to resolve disputes with “bad” landlords without penalizing every single tenant and every single landlord in the City of Florence. Blaming and punishing everyone in a certain business based on the acts of the few is unfair. This ordinance passed despite overwhelming public opposition to the ordinance and a lack of proper forum to display that discontent. We were not allowed to appear in person and are still not allowed in City Council meetings. Many citizens were unaware of the ordinance when it was being discussed and many people are still unaware of the rental ordinance. The ordinance was/is not to come into eﬀect until July 1, 2021. There are issues with the rental ordinance. We now have four new city council members on Florence City Council. We would like an in person public discussion of the rental ordinance and its negative impacts. We would like to halt the rental ordinance until it can be properly discussed by the public in person so that the public can have the time to speak as is intended in a democracy. We would like the representatives to listen to and hopefully heed the concerns and feelings of the citizens of Florence who are the constituents of the City Council members. Recently commercial property owners received a letter that Florence City Council has levied business license fees on commercial real estate owners. The letter blamed the change on Act 176 from the State of South Carolina legislature. However, State Legislators, Phillip Lowe and Jay Jordan, made it clear Act 176 does not require the City of Florence to levy new rental business licenses and taxes. Commercial real estate owner will now have to have to have business licenses of $80 per the ﬁrst $2,000 gross income and then $2.77 per each additional $1000 of gross income. City Council voted for this law without the two new council members in their seats. The public and businesses were not adequately informed of these proposed changes. There was no public discussion with local businesses and the community about raising expenses in the middle of a global pandemic. These additional expenses will end up being passed down to the consumers. The rental ordinance and the business license for commercial and residential real estate rentals is a big change from decades long policy, and this new ordinance and business license is anti-jobs, anti-business, and it is harmful to the entire Florence community. Businesses give back in many ways to our community by creating jobs, investing in the community, and giving time and money to non-proﬁts and others in the community. We as taxpayers deserve to have our voices heard. Now that we have a new mayor and four new council members in the City of Florence, we want fair and open in-person discussion of this matter between the citizens of Florence and the city council. Until we can have these full public in-person discussions with the entire community regarding these increased expenses, the rental ordinance and the new business licenses should be halted. If people understood the negative impact of the rental ordinance then very few people would be for the ordinance as written. I believe we all want Florence to be a city that is pro-jobs, pro-business and for Florence to be known for its fairness to all citizens. For the good of everyone let’s get all the sides and opinions aired out regarding these new ordinances. Phillip Barnett Greenberg Greenberg Real Estate (This letter was also signed by the following: Dr. John Keith III, Coffea Enterprises; Tim Norwood, Norwood and Norwood Ins.; R. Andrew Chaplin Jr., Palmetto Commercial Real Estate; Marty Massey, Florence Mall Piggly Wiggly; Timir Patel, Om Shivam, Days Inn Florence Center; Soha Patel, The Little Gym of Florence; Brice Elvington, The Toy Shop; Dr. Kim Elvington, Florence Pediatric Dentistry; Steve Powers, Kessler Properties; W. Joe McMillan Jr., Coldwell Banker McMillan and Associates; Richard A. Trappier, Coldwell Banker McMillan and Associates; Glynn F. Willis, former Florence City Councilman; Jim Anderson, MAIB Properties; Victor Webster, Sweetgrass Vodka; John Jordan, Jordan Enterprises, Inc; Louie Hopkins, LH Land; Doulaveris Holdings; Doulaveris & Son; Willsteph Properties; Deno Cholkas, Sundae House; Gary Dauksch, Dauksch Property Management; John Leo Capotosti Sr. and Lee Capotosti Jr.; John Brand; Dr. Phil Greenberg; Pettigrew 7 Oaks; Andy Jeffords ; Joe Blanton, The Blanton Company; Adam Crosson, Crosson & Co. Real Estate; R. Owens, Aiken & Co.; Mary Sanders, Grantham Properties and Development, Inc.; Samantha Carter, Carolina Coast & Country; Nell Folkens, Folkens Real Estate; David N. Grantham, Griggs-Floyd and Grantham; Barry C. Hulsey, Weichert Realtors; Danny Wright, Seaboard Properties; John Etheridge, E & A Realty; Dale Poston, Galactic Comics; Andrena Mullins, LilJazZi’s Cafe.