To the editor: Over 950 voters attended the Special Town Meeting and turned down the Short-Term Rental Workgroup's proposal (Articles 1 & 2). Thank you to everyone who recognized the importance of attending and voting!
We’re truly grateful to the voters for preventing an island-wide zoning change that would have allowed any home anywhere to become a commercial or full-time Short-Term Rental (STR). Preventing the legalization of commercial STRs (i.e., houses that are full-time or primarily STRs) in our neighborhoods is a big win for Nantucket.
ACKNow urged a NO vote on Articles 1 & 2 because these articles did not address the main problem: the expansion of commercial STRs at the expense of the community.
Despite the palpable confusion at Town Meeting, there was a good discussion, with some suggesting:
1) The proposal did not do enough to protect year-round residents who want to rent their homes now or in the future.
2) It did not do enough to limit commercial STRs. In fact, Article 2 would have done the opposite.
Others raised concerns over the loss of year-round community and housing, and the increased competition from commercial STRs hurting residents who need to rent their homes.
And as Matt Fee indicated, a lot of good work has been done. We just have more work to do to get to an approach addressing concerns raised during the meeting.
We have no intention of filing a citizens’ article to address STRs before the deadline on Tuesday. Instead, we are now relying on the Land Court to interpret Nantucket's current zoning bylaw and give everyone guidance before making far-reaching decisions like changing zoning for the island.
The reason there have been several attempts at changing zoning is that there's uncertainty about what Nantucket's current zoning bylaw means for STRs.
The highest court in the state ruled that STRs are commercial and not permitted as a primary use in residential districts, but the Court also said that residents of resort communities could likely rent their homes on an accessory-use basis. In other words, on Nantucket, STRs would be allowed as long as the property's primary use is as a home, such as an owner using it and/or as a long-term rental.
ACKNow has always supported year-round and seasonal residents renting their homes (i.e., short-term rentals as an accessory use in residential zoning). What we don’t support are commercial STRs in neighborhoods.
The Building Commissioner’s position is that any STR use (even a commercial STR) is allowed because it's no different than a family living in a home. And while Town Counsel has largely backed this version, he's also stated at times that STRs are allowed as an Accessory Use.
So, like other local organizations defending environmental or citizens' rights, ACKNow has been supporting a zoning challenge to protect residential districts from commercial STR operations and, in turn, protect residents' ability to short-term rent their homes.
A Land Court judge is set to make a decision within a few months. We hope it will reflect the will of island voters as expressed at our recent town meeting.
A huge thank you to all our supporters and donors across the community. Whatever people decide on STRs, these are no doubt some of the most important decisions for the future of the local community and the island as a whole.
Julia Lindner, Executive Director on behalf of the ACKNow Board of Directors