New Challenges To Short-Term Rentals Emerge In Monomoy And On Cliff Road

Jason Graziadei •

Monomoy Front 4349

Several new disputes over short-term rentals on Nantucket - this time in Monomoy and off Cliff Road - have emerged in the form of formal requests for zoning enforcement by residents against their neighbors.

While Town Meeting decided to punt on the issue in May, and the new Short-Term Rental Work Group is still figuring out how to play nice, neighbors of short-term rental properties are taking matters into their own hands, hiring lawyers and heading to the Zoning Board of Appeals with their grievances.

The challenges are similar to other recent short-term rental disputes: neighbors believe short-term rental properties are operating as commercial businesses in residentially-zoned areas, a use that they assert is not allowed and should be stopped by the town through a zoning enforcement action.

On Cliff Road, homeowners Christopher and Ann Quick have requested zoning enforcement against their neighboring property at 15 Delaney Road, owned by Ralph and Bonne Keith. The Quicks believe the Keith's home on Delaney Road is used "primarily, if not exclusively, as a short-term rental."

The home's "use as a short-term rental is a commercial use. It is therefore prohibited in the R-1 District in which it is located, as the R-1 District only permits residential uses. Although it appears a single family home from the outside, the STR property is not being used for a legitimate residential use under the Nantucket Zoning Bylaw," attorney Kristen Gagalis, of the Boston law firm Anderson Kreiger, wrote to Nantucket zoning compliance coordinator Marcus Silverstein on Sept. 8. Gagalis requested that Silverstein issue a cease and desist order. 

Meanwhile in Monomoy, homeowners Jeff McDermott, Matthew Westfall, Stephen Kitchum, Rob and Deorah Landreth, and Mark Wilmot, have requested zoning enforcement against their neighboring property at 32 Monomoy Road, which is owned by The Copley Group. Their attorney, Nina Pickering-Cook, also of Anderson Kreiger, similarly argued that The Copley Group was operating 32 Monomoy Road strictly as a short-term rental, and that it's "use as a commercial property is prohibited" in the LUG-1 zoning district.

"My clients look forward to seeing their neighboring property return to single family residential use and to the permanent housing stock for the island," Pickering-Cook wrote to Silverstein, also requesting a cease and desist order.

Pickering-Cook has previously represented the political action group ACK Now before the Zoning Board of Appeals in a similar short-term rental dispute on Mill Street. But ACK Now's Julia Lindner said the group was not involved in the new short-term rental challenges in Monomoy and on Cliff Road.

In both cases, Nantucket Building Commissioner Paul Murphy responded to the zoning enforcement request by declining to take any action "because, in my opinion, the use of the property for short-term rentals does not violate the Town's Zoning Bylaw."

It appears both challenges will likely head to the Zoning Board of Appeals, where similar cases have been rejected by the island's local zoning authority. One of those appeals, involving a short-term rental dispute on West Dover Street, is currently pending before the Massachusetts Land Court.

These neighbor-versus-neighbor disputes were among the reasons why the Planning Board and Planning & Land Use Services department had sought voter approval in May for Article 42, a zoning bylaw amendment that would have codified short-term rentals and allowed them by right in all zoning districts. But that effort was punted, along with ACK Now's bid to further restrict short-term rentals owned by non-residents, to the new study group that is just getting off the ground.

The lawsuits, requests for zoning enforcement, and the competing Town Meeting proposals regarding short-term rentals all came in the aftermath of a 2021 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) decision involving short term rentals known as the Lynnfield case, or the Styller case.

The case reached the SJC after Alexander Styller, the owner of a home in Lynnfield, Mass., appealed a decision by the local building inspector that prohibited him from offering short term rentals of his home based on the fact it was located in a residential zoning district. After losing at the local Zoning Board and the Land Court, Styller appealed to the SJC, which also ruled to uphold the building commissioner’s decision. The decision stated: “short-term rental use of a one family home is inconsistent with the zoning purpose of the single-residence zoning district in which it is situated, i.e., to preserve the residential character of the neighborhood.” There is disagreement on how the case might translate to Nantucket, or if it applies at all.

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