Short-Term Rental Group Blasts ACK•Now's Refusal To Follow Protocols
Jason Graziadei •
Nantucket’s Short-Term Rental Work Group has yet to begin its true task, but its members are already at odds over the very ground rules that will guide its efforts to find consensus on the divisive issue of what to do about short-term rentals on the island.
The members of the work group on Tuesday called out the political action group ACK•Now’s refusal to commit to some of the proposed ground rules intended to help the group operate cohesively despite the highly-charged topic.
“My personal opinion is they’re doing their best to undermine this process,” work group member David Iverson said of ACK•Now. Iverson was joined by several other members in criticizing the political action group’s stance on the proposed ground rules.
They were responding to ACK•Now’s statement released one day earlier which read in part: “we cannot agree to specific ground rules (H and I), which prevent workgroup members from communicating freely with the community and stop members from participating in potential efforts to bring alternative STR approaches before voters.”
The specific proposed guidelines ACK•Now was objecting to are the following:
“...a commitment for all participating groups to refrain from developing, submitting, or promoting any articles regarding STRs for the Town Warrant while this Work Group is in progress,” and “Participants will not attribute statements to others involved, seek to present or represent the views or position of other members or alternates, nor attempt to speak on behalf of the group as a whole to their constituents or in or to the media.”
ACK•Now’s representative on the work group, Julia Lindner, said such ground rules were unprecedented for any Nantucket board or commission while reiterating her commitment to the task that was assigned to the work group by Town Meeting voters earlier this year.
“We’re not in any way trying to get this group disbanded, that’s not the goal,” Lindner said. “What you heard at Town Meeting is people want to see this issue resolved. That’s why we’re all here. But it’s the first time I've ever seen these types of ground rules being presented to a local body.”
Yet Lindner was the only member of the work group who balked at any of proposed ground rules, a move which was roundly criticized by her counterparts. Peter Schaeffer, the Finance Committee’s representative on the work group, said he was concerned that ACK•Now would simply forge ahead with its own warrant article for the 2023 Annual Town Meeting even if the work group is not yet prepared to bring forward a proposal of its own at that point.
“They can bypass what we’re doing by putting an article out,”Schaeffer said. “If we don’t have anything ready, we’re leaving ourselves wide open to that.”
The working group’s facilitator, Stacie Smith, of the Consensus Building Institute, told the members that she had already consulted with the town’s attorney about the situation and potential options if ACK•Now declined to adhere to the protocols.
“We’ve been informed that the ACK•Now group does not agree to follow these ground rules and we’ve gotten advice from the town’s attorney to the point that we cannot demand parties follow these ground rules, they’re voluntary,” Smith said. “They’re not legally binding, and so this group also does not have the authority to ask people to step down from this group. That’s the sole job of the selection committee.”
With that advice, the work group ultimately decided to proceed with ratifying the operating protocols, while acknowledging that ACK•Now’s Lindner was the lone member who did not agree to abide by them.
Beyond the drama over those protocols, the work group did delve into some matters of substance on Tuesday, including its draft policy goals (an attempt to answer the lingering question of what problem the work group should be trying to solve) as well as some initial data presented by the town’s consultant Granicus.
The overarching draft goal of the committee - as it stands right now - is to “ Preserve Nantucket's unique character and traditions, neighborhoods, sense of community, and quality of life” which would be accomplished by the following:
- Prevent or reverse the loss of available year-round housing due to STRs
- Reduce or prevent increase in year-round rental and purchase costs
- Reduce or prevent increase in traffic, congestion, overcrowding, and strains on civic
- and environmental infrastructure
- Avoid noise, nuisance, and other "bad neighbor" behaviors
- Protect residents' (year-round and part-time) interests/needs for rental income and flexibility
- Support and ensure the benefits of the tourism economy for the people of Nantucket
- Preserve tax and fee income for the municipal budget and other Nantucket priorities
The work group will continue to refine these goals ahead of its next full meeting.
The data set presented by Granicus planning consultant Jeffrey Goodman showed his initial assessment of short-term rentals on Nantucket pulled from the giant online platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO, and Expedia. It showed 1,674 active short-term rental units available on July 4, 2022, as well as some unique characteristics of the Nantucket market, including that 38 percent of listings were for five-plus bedroom homes, and the average nightly rate was $844, among the highest in the nation, Goodman said.
Several work group members, along with a member of the public - Penny Dey from the Nantucket Association of Real Estate Brokers - quickly pointed out that the data did not include listings from local real estate firms
“The most important thing is to have qualitative data and that has to include local data from the real estate companies and not just the online platforms,” Dey said. “The local data exceeds that of hte online platforms.”
The data, like the draft policy goals, will continue to be refined. A subcommittee of the work group will convene this Friday at 10 a.m. to focus strictly on the data questions raised by the members.
Watch the full meeting below (it's mis-labeled as the "Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee but it's actually the Oct. 25th Short-Term Rental Work Group meeting):