A town-sponsored regulation to address short-term rentals on Nantucket has been punted to a Special Town Meeting in the fall of 2023.
While there had been hope that the recently appointed Short-Term Rental Work Group would be able to craft a potential solution to one of Nantucket’s most hotly-debated issues for the upcoming Annual Town Meeting in May, the Select Board nixed that idea on Wednesday.
Given the need for accurate data on short-term rentals and the few months remaining before the Annual Town Meeting, Select Board member Brooke Mohr proposed the longer timeline on Wednesday. She also suggested that the board should decline to support any other short-term rental proposals – such as the two citizen-sponsored petitions that will be debated in May – in the interim.
“I would propose that we commit to a Special town Meeting in the fall to consider both zoning and regulatory bylaws related to short-term rentals based on the outcome of the Short-Term Rental Work Group to give them time to collect and analyze the data they need to make a good and thorough recommendation to the community on how we should handle short-term rentals moving forward,” Mohr said. “It would be very important to me that we message to the community we don’t support any short-term rental related articles that appear on the warrant at the spring Town Meeting in support of allowing this process to play out for a special meeting in the fall.”
The members of the Short-Term Rental Work Group have been meeting since October and working to define the “problem” they are attempting to solve, while also defining the data necessary to evaluate Nantucket’s short-term rental market.
“It’s become clear that they don’t have the necessary data and it’s December, tomorrow,” Select Board member Dawn Hill Holdgate said. “Until they have the proper tool kit, how can they make any kind of recommendation?”
While the Select Board’s decision was unanimous, not all of its members were happy about it. Matt Fee said the concept was “news to me,” while recently-elected Select Board member Malcolm MacNab was clearly disturbed by the delay.
“I will support it, but I’m not happy to support it,” MacNab said. “I think it’s inexcusable we don’t have data after this number of months. Being late for your homework is not always acceptable, but I will reluctantly support this.”
While the town’s consultant Granicus had been able to gather and present data from national platforms like Airbnb and VRBO, members of the Short-Term Rental Work Group and others from the public immediately called out the lack of data in the presentation from local real estate firms
“The availability of data is not as simple as it might appear,” Mohr said. “The registration process starting in January was designed to flesh out the situation here. It’s disappointing to me we’re not ready for spring town meeting, but it’s more important we do it right.”
David Iverson, a member of the Planning Board who was appointed to serve on the Short-Term Rental Workgroup, agreed with Mohr’s position on the data, and endorsed the Select Board’s decision to wait until the fall of 2023.
“It (the data) is forthcoming, it’s coming from many sources,” Iverson said. “There’s some negotiation involved. We’re on a really great track right now and hope to have it in full by February. We appreciate your patience and the community’s patience, but it is important we do it right, so I think a fall town meeting is a better choice.”
The data set previously 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.
Watch the most recent Short-Term Rental Work-Group meeting below: