Copley Group Lists Its Short-Term Rental Properties For Sale After Town Meeting Votes

Jason Graziadei •

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Some of The Copley Group's Nantucket vacation rentals that are now for sale as of Sunday morning.

The Copley Group, one of the largest operators of short-term rentals on Nantucket, has put nearly its entire island real estate portfolio on the market.

Ten of the dozen Nantucket properties owned and operated as vacation rentals by The Copley Group were listed for sale on Sunday by The Maury People Sotheby's International Realty, ranging in price from $3.99 million up to $5.99 million. Combined, The Copley Group is seeking $38.9 million for the 10 Nantucket properties.

The move comes less than two weeks after island voters rejected a zoning bylaw amendment that would have allowed short-term rentals by right in all residential zoning districts, and then approved a ban on corporate ownership of short-term rentals. The ban included an amendment that would eliminate legacy status for existing short-term rentals owned by corporations. It’s not clear how or whether the ban would apply to The Copley Group’s existing Nantucket properties if the bylaw is eventually approved by the state Attorney General. The listings also come in the wake of the Massachusetts Land Court's bombshell decision that the town's zoning bylaw does not allow short-term rentals as a principal use of a primary dwelling.

The Copley Group purchased the 10 properties in a series of acquisitions between 2012 and 2019 for a combined total of just over $16 million. Each property is owned on paper by a different limited liability company, all of which are registered to The Copley Group. 

As the island has wrestled over proposals to regulate and restrict short-term rentals over the past four years, The Copley Group, a Boston-based real estate organization founded in 1965, has been at the center of that debate. Its founder, Norman Levenson, has been a summer resident on the island for decades. His company has previously been sued in a legal action funded by ACK Now, the political action group led by summer resident Peter McCausland, over one of The Copley Group’s short-term rental properties. Levenson responded by funding efforts to defeat warrant articles proposed by ACK Now that sought to curtail short-term rentals on Nantucket.

Norman Levenson

Levenson did not return messages seeking comment on Sunday regarding The Copley Group’s decision to list most of its properties for sale. Listing broker Gary Winn also declined to comment.

Three years ago, however, Levenson provided some insights into his perspective on the boiling controversy over short-term rentals on Nantucket.

“Without the rental homes on the island, the economy wouldn’t be the same,” Levenson told N Magazine in 2021. “The restaurants won’t do the same, the shopkeepers, it trickles down to the t-shirt shops, the charter boats, the tour buses. The people who live on the island year-round, they work in all these places. I’ve been coming to the island for 50 years. My family has grown up there, my kids worked on the island. We love the island. We didn’t just show up one day from Boston and start buying up all these investment homes with no care for the island.”

Since 2021, Levenson and The Copley Group have been embroiled in the divisive debate. The company was identified by ACK Now as one of the primary examples in its argument that corporate-owned, commercial short-term rentals were driving up home prices and rental rates, disrupting year-round neighborhoods and resulting in the loss of year-round homes as well as over-development that threatens the character of the island.

"If it is true (that The Copley Group is selling its properties), it makes sense given the Land Court decision followed by Nantucket voters turning back the fourth attempt to make short-term rentals a permitted principal use," McCausland told the Current. "That said, there are groups which will go for the fifth bite of the apple in September."

ACK Now first targeted The Copley Group’s short-term rental property at 14 New Mill Street by bankrolling a lawsuit filed by neighbors. But shortly before that case went to trial, The Copley Group sold the property for $3.2 million, leading to a dismissal of the lawsuit.

In 2022 and 2023, The Copley Group’s short-term rental property on Monomoy Road came under fire by neighbors, who claimed it had brought noise, trash, drunken parties, and traffic to one of Nantucket’s most exclusive neighborhoods. They filed a complaint seeking an enforcement action and claiming that The Copley Group’s use of the property solely as a commercial short-term rental in a residential neighborhood constituted a violation of Nantucket’s zoning code. After Building Commissioner Paul Murphy denied the neighbors' request for enforcement, they appealed the decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals. But as it had done in previous and similar challenges of short-term rentals around Nantucket, the board voted unanimously to deny the appeal, and affirmed Murphy’s decision that the short-term renting of the property constituted an allowable residential use.

And ahead of the 2023 Nantucket Annual Town Meeting, when debate raged over a citizen petition backed by ACK Now that sought to restrict short-term rentals, The Copley Group covertly funded the faceless group The Alliance To Protect Nantucket’s Economy to help defeat the proposal.

While it is unclear whether the recent Town Meeting votes directly led to The Copley Group’s decision to put its properties on the market, one island real broker shared this analysis of the surprising development.

“It’s pretty disappointing,” said Great Point Properties broker / principal Greg McKechnie. “Those have always been great rentals that are well-maintained and they’re really attentive owners. It’s also disappointing because Norm Levenson has been very generous to the island, which I don’t think people realize.

“I believe that this is a direct result of (Levenson) being vilified and dragged into court,” McKechnie added. “Norm has done a lot of good for Nantucket. And I am guessing is not feeling very appreciated. We are getting a lot of comments from people who are contemplating renting about how the locals do not want them here, we try to explain that is not the case at all but there are a lot of headlines out there that do suggest that. It is sad. I don’t think The Copley Group’s income is a big part of Norm’s income. So yes I would guess that after the Annual Town Meeting he decided to just cash out. If he continues to support the island the way he has, then he is a better person than me. Nantucket needed him more than he needs us.”

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