The State, This Week: Vacation rental companies sued by SC beach towns

Chase Karacostas
·6 min read

Happy Friday, everybody! It’s cold and windy where I am, not the beach weather I was hoping for. However, looking forward, we are less than one month away from the start of the minor league baseball season! Here’s how a Fireflies game will look when the team returns.

For those who just signed up, I’m Chase Karacostas, and I report on tourism and business here in South Carolina for The State and The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. Welcome to The State, This Week, our new newsletter where we recap the biggest stories you need to know from around the Palmetto State every Friday. Like what you see? Have a story idea of your own? Let me know!

Here are this week’s top stories.

1. Who’s paying their ‘fair share’?

Cities and counties along the South Carolina coast have sued some of the biggest short-term rental companies in the nation. The coastal governments, including Hilton Head Island, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, accused Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, TripAdvisor and nine other companies of not paying local tourism taxes and business fees.

AirBnB and VRBO have at least 34,000 properties listed in the state. The taxes the companies have been accused of not paying range from 1% in Hilton Head to 3% in Myrtle Beach. The fees help local governments pay for infrastructure projects, beach maintenance and local grant programs.

How much money the cities and counties might be losing is unclear, the Island Packet’s Kati Kokal reports, but the lawsuit has raised questions about where the money some hosts charged for the accommodations taxes went.

2. Rock Hill mourns 6 mass shooting victims

York County Sheriff deputies guard an entrance to the residence of Dr. Robert Lesslie on Thursday, April 8, 2021. Former NFL player Phillip Adams shot 6 people on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 killing Dr. Robert Lesslie, his wife, two grand children and a Gaston HVAC worker. Robert Shook, another Gaston HVAC worker was severely wounded during the shooting in York County. Adams later killed himself at his parents home.
York County Sheriff deputies guard an entrance to the residence of Dr. Robert Lesslie on Thursday, April 8, 2021. Former NFL player Phillip Adams shot 6 people on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 killing Dr. Robert Lesslie, his wife, two grand children and a Gaston HVAC worker. Robert Shook, another Gaston HVAC worker was severely wounded during the shooting in York County. Adams later killed himself at his parents home.

Hundreds gathered Sunday to mourn the victims of the mass shooting outside Rock Hill that killed six people last week.

The victims included Rock Hill doctor, Robert Lesslie, his wife, two of their grandchildren and two air conditioning techs working at the family’s home. The last person to die was Robert Shook, who died Saturday after several days in a Charlotte hospital.

Authorities identified the shooter as Phillip Adams, a former NFL player who died by suicide after being pursued by police. His motive remains unknown, the Herald’s Andrew Dys reports.

The Sunday memorial drew both longtime friends of the Lesslies and people who’d never met them, The Herald’s Cailyn Dickerson and Alexander Zietlow report. Sarah Valentine, who’s known the family for years, was among the attendees.

“Obviously, we’re devastated for them,” Valentine said. “But as Christians, we can have both grief and joy at the same time because we know where they are now.”

3.‘Can’t lose our history’

Morris Street in Charleston has a history all its own, from being the heart of a community for freed Black people in the 1850s to hosting James Brown, “the godfather of soul,” when he accepted the key to the city in 1967.

“Every part of our beautiful city was shaped in some way by the lives and work of Black Charlestonians, but none more than Morris Street,” said Nathaniel Robert Walker, an associate professor of architectural history at the College of Charleston. “It was the thriving commercial and cultural heart of a community that refused to be left on the margins of a segregated city.”

Some fear that history could be forgotten, so the Preservation Society of Charleston launched an online exhibit that tells the street’s history and the lives of the people who built it into what it is today.

The street already looks vastly different from how it did 60 years ago. The State’s Charleston reporter Caitlin Byrd has all the details on what’s still there and what can only be preserved in photos.

4. Aquatic creepy crawlies, gators and beaver bounties

Moving to the beach was supposed to be nice. I thought the people here floated over the sand, and hoped the beautiful water didn’t actually have anything in it to bother me.

But, I have learned. For one, sea worms have swarmed South Carolina’s coast and it may not be advisable to go swimming with the little guys. How long will they be here? Do they bite? The State’s Mitchell Willetts has the latest.

Alligators have for made headlines in recent weeks down in the Lowcountry for, among other things, napping on golf courses. This week, one poor golfer’s 18 holes were interrupted when his ball ended up ... on the head of a gator.

Myrtle Beach is considering a new way to deal with its own water-friendly pests. Rather than paying contractors to kill beavers, whose dams have worsened inland flooding, Horry County proposed putting out a bounty on beavers, the Sun News’ Dale Shoemaker, Jr. reports. Here’s how much the county might pay per beaver, and who would be allowed to go hunting for them.

5. Fun, Fun and Not Fun updates from the Grand Strand

The first pieces of the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel arrived on the boardwalk Wednesday afternoon. For its 10th Anniversary, the SkyWheel shut down and was shipped back to Kansas to its manufacturer to be refurbished.
The first pieces of the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel arrived on the boardwalk Wednesday afternoon. For its 10th Anniversary, the SkyWheel shut down and was shipped back to Kansas to its manufacturer to be refurbished.

Remember music festivals? Coronavirus killed them. In the Before Times, we used to gather in giant, often muddy, parks to listen to some of our favorite musicians.

The Carolina Country Music Festival is one of the first events of its kind to return to Myrtle Beach. The festival is coming out of suspended animation, with the same headliners planned for last year’s event, including Luke Combs. The Sun News’ Maya Brown has the latest on when and where the event will be, and who will be performing.

Also this week, the first pieces of the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel rolled onto the boardwalk after three months of renovations for its 10th anniversary. It’ll take about two weeks to reconstruct with possible reopening in late May. I wrote about the wheel’s return and what changes people can expect. (Oh, and the reason it’s not just called the Ferris wheel, I’m told, is because it’s “not part of a circus.”)

Finally, tourists flooding back into Myrtle Beach this spring will find one thing missing from the seafood buffets — crab legs. A national shortage on snow crab legs has caused issues in the regions that survive off them, like the Grand Strand, The Sun News’ Alan Blondin reports.

There’s also a shortage of chicken wings, but I’m not going to tell you to not be alarmed. I am alarmed. I just bought a new wing sauce.

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