“One in the hand … is worth two in the bush”. This proverb, slightly altered, first appeared in the English language in 1546. Webster’s dictionary defines its meaning: “It is better to hold onto something one has, than to risk losing it by trying to get something better.”
That is exactly the choice that voters will be presented with at Nantucket’s 2023 ATM when they vote to accept or reject Emily Kilvert ‘s Warrant Article 60. Her article will immediately legalize Short Term Rentals for Nantucket homeowners (and deny for-profit enterprises). The Town has appointed ten primary and six alternate members to the Short Term Rental Work Group (STRWG) and charged them to analyze the STR landscape on island and propose warrant articles for a Special Town Meeting next Fall.
I have watched all of the STRWG Zoom meetings. They started slowly, but have made progress this year. Early on they set admirable (and lofty) goals, all of which may not be achievable.
To be clear, I support the efforts of the STRWG, and also their decision to postpone the date of their proposed solution(s). They are developing needed data and researching how other communities addressed STR’s in order to develop intelligent proposals. Their March 14 meeting included an excellent panel discussion from Palm Springs, Scottsdale and Honolulu. While these cities are much larger, and two of them do not face Nantucket’s geographic challenges, they are facing the same STR issues and offered helpful solutions. Interestingly, Palm Springs has established regulations with similar effects to Ms. Kilvert’s Article 60. Scottsdale is far ahead of Nantucket w/r to data collection and intelligent regulations. Their spokesman stressed how important communication was, in order to develop trust and support in their community.
Which brings me to an important point – continuous and effective communication. The STRWG seems to feel that informing the community means Zoom meetings and posting minutes on the Town website. Wrong. They need to be much more pro-active if they want keep voters informed.
The Planning Board and Select Board have made clear that they do not support any of the STR articles at Town Meeting in May, including Article 60,. They’re asking voters to defeat the article, and wait for the STRWG to complete its deliberations and offer “better” solutions at a Special Town Meeting next fall. That would be the “two in the bush”, but we don’t know what, specifically, they will propose.
As it stands now, voters at ATM are faced with what might be called a Hobson’s choice – take the bird in the hand (Ms. Kilvert’s Article), which seems like a reasonable effort to address our STR problem immediately … or wait, and maybe (or maybe not) get two in the bush - the Select Board’s and STRWG’s promised “better solution” next fall.
Why can’t we have both … one in the hand and two in the bush?
I have seen both sides of the STR debate. My wife and I rented our guest cottage in Tom Nevers for nine years before moving closer to town in 2018. We also lived right next door to “The Wedding Factory” and endured 57 weddings between 2000 and 2018.
Personally, I plan to vote for Article 60 in May. But I’d be more willing to vote it down and wait, if I had some clear progress reports on exactly what the STRWG has discovered, and what their proposed articles will contain. In other words, more info on what’s in the bush.
Article 60 is not perfect, but it is good and it is now. To quote Voltaire: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Let’s pass Article 60 – NOW – and let the STRWG offer improvements next Fall.