Ban On Hot Tubs, Spas In Historic Districts Approved  - By One Vote

Jason Graziadei •

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It came down to just a single vote. Town Meeting attendees on Tuesday decided the fate of a proposed ban of hot tubs and spas in the historic districts of downtown Nantucket and Sconset. And after the votes were counted, Town Meeting moderator Sarah Alger announced the shocking results: the prohibition on hot tubs and spas had passed by just one vote.

The final tally showed 376 island residents had voted in favor of the ban, with 186 opposed. The two-thirds majority necessary to pass the zoning bylaw amendment was 375 votes. Audible gasps and some applause filled the Nantucket High School auditorium.

Swimming pools over a certain size are already banned in the island’s historic districts - specifically those with water more than 24 inches in depth, exceeding 150 square feet of water surface area, or exceeding 1,000 gallons - a prohibition that was enacted back in 2011. But Article 54 sponsor Anne Dewez said homeowners and property developers had found loopholes in that bylaw, building larger and larger hot tubs, spas, and plunge pools. Those so-called “water features” go against the spirit of the ban on pools, and degrade the quality of life for neighbors of those properties, Dewez and others argued on Tuesday.

“I have deep anxiety about what is happening to our old historic districts,” Dewez said. “Developers and others have exploited loopholes in the zoning bylaw by building larger spas, hot tubs and plunge pools...Let’s ban these 21st century novelties in our old historic districts.”

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Other island residents joined Dewez in calling for the ban, including nurse practitioner Meredith Lepore, who said she grew up in the town historic district.

“Hot tubs and spas are out of place in the old historic district in town and Sconset,” Lepore said. “Hot tubs and spas are attractive nuisances and do not belong in the historic districts...What we object to is the partying into the early morning and and the lights and noise pollution that come with hot tubs and spas.”

Under the town’s current zoning bylaw, hot tubs and spas are defined as structures “containing water more than 24 inches in depth and less than 150 square feet of water surface area."

Dewez also referenced the recent survey that was circulated around the island relating to spas in the old historic districts. The survey, which received 453 responses from resident and non-resident Nantucket property owners, found that a strong majority were in favor of banning hot tubs and spas in the historic zones of town and Sconset. Seventy percent of respondents preferred no hot tubs or spas.

Regardless of the results of the survey, both the Planning Board and the Finance Committee had advised voters to turn down Dewez’s proposed ban, citing the need for more public input.

“Welcome to Ban-Tucket,” Planning Board member Nat Lowell said, holding up a towel that spelled “Love” to lighten the mood and show Town Meeting voters the relative size of the hot tubs and spas going into properties. Lowell emphasized that the issue was less about pools and hot tubs than it was about changing lifestyles in which more people enjoy outdoor living featuring sports, music via Bluetooth speakers, and other recreation.

“This is more about outdoor living than it is about a pool or spa,” Lowell said. “Be careful what you wish for.”

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