Clarifying Confusion On Articles 59 & 60

Ron Kokot, Virginia Vidoni, and Bob Vidoni •

To the editor: We are writing to clarify the confusion that confronts Nantucket voters for Annual Town Meeting. You are not alone if you find yourself amid multiple contradictory and baffling messages. Zoning Bylaws and General Bylaws can be complicated subjects, especially when related to vacation rentals.

There are two articles we are asking you to vote for, Articles 59 and 60. The first is Zoning Article 59 which requires a 2/3 majority vote. Zoning articles identify approved uses of dwellings. For well over 50 years, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board have continuously permitted and even encouraged the short-term rental of dwellings to vacationers to build Nantucket’s tourism economy in both the high season and the shoulder months. However, this use was never specified in Nantucket’s Zoning Bylaw, as it was assumed to be a residential use. This has resulted in neighbors suing neighbors, trapping these families in a litigation nightmare. In addition, a recent Land Court ruling determined that short-term rentals are not expressly permitted by the Nantucket Zoning Bylaw in the Residential Old Historic District, thus illegal. It also means many homeowners who rent their homes could be sued. Fortunately, the Land Court Judge did not finalize his ruling, but rather directed the Town to address the issue quickly or he would.

Casting a "YES" vote for Article 59 will respond to the Judge’s ruling, stop the lawsuits, allow homeowners to rent their homes legally, and preserve Nantucket’s tourism economy. Article 59 preserves the rights people assumed when making plans to buy their Nantucket homes. Until this point in time the equity in these homes has included the ability to rent short or longer term for the past 100 years or more. For many, this has enabled them to finance and pay down their debt, pay local landscapers, cleaning staff, plumbers, and painters among others, and allowing their families to look forward to the use of their homes well into the future. For others, it has been the basis for college tuition, retirement, medical needs, and many other elements in their financial planning. As a zoning article, article 59 will preserve these rights for current owners.

General Bylaws allow the Town to regulate and control approved zoning uses. That is why General Bylaw Article 60 is so important. Voting "YES" on Article 60 adds further controls to the already approved Chapter 123 of the General Bylaws, by prohibiting all corporate commercial interests from operating new short-term rental properties in the future.

Beginning this year, every homeowner that rents to short-term vacationers must register with the town and follow the new guidelines required under Chapters 123 and 338. The new registration system enables the town to deal with disruptive or nuisance rentals. There is a dedicated STR Hotline to report a problem rental, and the town can impose fines or revoke the homeowner’s registration, making it illegal to short-term rent their property. As data is collected from the new STR registration system, should the Town determine STRs are growing more than desired, additional controls can be put in place.

Some people are wondering if this will open the floodgates for more and more vacation rentals in all areas of the island. That is a good question. Historically, people were able to afford to buy a Nantucket house and cover their expenses by renting to short-term vacationers. Realistically, those days are over. Between the high cost of houses and high mortgage rates, the numbers no longer work.

Voting "YES" for Article 59 (“Preserve Property Rights”) and Article 60 (“Guardrails”) is important to end this conflict that has plagued the Island for the last few years, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Please vote YES on both Article 59 and 60 and finally give the island a chance to move on to the many critical issues facing this beautiful community.

Concerned Homeowners,

Ron Kokot

Virginia Vidoni

Bob Vidoni

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