Don't Be Scared Into Voting For Article 59

Peter McCausland •

To the editor: I understand that Steven Cohen is trying to drum up support for his Article 59, but he should stop fear-mongering through inaccuracies and mischaracterizations in doing so. It isn’t necessary for Town Meeting to act to preserve the historical use of island properties as short-term rentals (STRs). Judge Vhay recently confirmed that right. No, Mr. Cohen isn’t trying to protect that right. He is promoting Article 59 to advance commercial interests. The only thing Article 59 preserves is the explosion of STRs on the Island and allows them to continue to grow at the expense of our neighborhoods. Let me clear up a few errors in Cohen’s letter:

  • Judge Vhay’s decision in the Ward case does not prohibit all STRs. The only prohibition in the decision was on STRs as the only or main use of a residence. Everyone renting their homes for fewer days than they occupy should be able to continue renting - even without any further action by Town Meeting.
  • Article 59 is not merely a first step that can be moderated or adjusted down the road. If passed, it would provide permanent legal protections for all existing commercial STRs (as legal, pre-existing, non-conforming uses [i.e., grandfathered]). Town Counsel warned the Select Board of this serious issue last week.
  • Cohen’s suggestion that the STR use over the past 5-plus years is in line with the Nantucket tradition of renting is a farce. The voters know that there is a big difference between commercial STRs, and the renting out of one’s house to offset the costs, which is the real Nantucket tradition. This attempt to shoehorn commercial STRs into the “Nantucket tradition” is unconvincing.
I know Cohen is doing his job to advance the commercial interests he represents, but this is the fourth attempt in as many years to gut residential zoning through legalizing all STRs. Island residents have made it clear that they do not want to give up the protections afforded by residential zoning. Article 59 is not a solution to any of the issues created by unregulated STRs, and it could lead to an explosion of STRs across the island. Article 59 completely ignores the unique problems presented when putting a transient commercial use in the middle of neighborhoods and exacerbates the problem of housing availability and attainability. Passage of Article 59 would be a self-inflicted wound from which Nantucket may never recover.

Peter McCausland

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