"We're Wasting Our Time" Select Board Still Split On Short-Term Rental Proposals

JohnCarl McGrady •

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The Select Board reviewed a draft of the warrant for November’s Special Town Meeting Wednesday but remained divided on the short-term rental (STR) regulations proposed by the recently disbanded Short Term Rental Work Group.

Select Board members Matt Fee and Malcolm MacNab reiterated their concerns with the proposal, while Vice Chair Brooke Mohr and Select Board member Tom Dixon, who also served on the Work Group, voiced their support.

“I’m still not happy and I’m still not convinced that the present proposed regulations are the best for the island this time,” MacNab said.

The Select Board is set to vote on the approval of the warrant at its next meeting on August 16th, but little progress was made toward a consensus at Wednesday’s meeting. For well over an hour, Select Board members, Town Counsel John Giorgio, and former Work Group members went back and forth on various aspects of the proposal and a series of questions posed by Fee.

Fee raised the same concerns he has raised in past meetings about the merits of the proposal, the decision to propose a short-term rental zoning bylaw — which requires a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority — to legalize STRs by right but not to regulate them, and the odds of it securing enough support to pass at Town Meeting.

Fee suggested changing the zoning bylaw proposed by the Work Group to only allow STRs as an accessory use, not by right. Alternatively, he suggested adding a competing bylaw to the warrant to make that change.

Mohr and other supporters of the proposal pushed back against his suggestions, arguing that the proposal is carefully considered and well-reasoned and would likely be an effective way to regulate STRs. Mohr argued that while the exact effects of the proposal can’t be known until it is implemented, any problems that arise can be addressed at future Town Meetings.

“I’m very uncomfortable making substantive changes,” Mohr said.

It was quickly apparent no agreement would be reached at the meeting.

“We’re not going anywhere here,” MacNab said. “We’re wasting our time.”

Mohr ultimately ended the discussion of the warrant with no resolution. But in two weeks, the Select Board will be forced to resolve the issue one way or another.

The warrant will also include articles to fund Town employee housing initiatives and renovations to the Nobadeer playing fields, among other items. The article that would appropriate funds to renovate the playing fields requires a positive vote from Town Meeting and a local election. It was defeated at last year’s Annual Town Meeting but approved by voters during the subsequent local election, so if it passes at the Special Town Meeting, it will have both of the affirmative votes it needs.

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