Don't Sacrifice Our Community Or Economy For Short-Term Rentals

Caleb Wursten •

To the editor: Hi Nantucket. We are seeing the short-term rental debate play out at Select Board meetings, online, and elsewhere. The debate is framed as a combat between economic and community interests. This is not doing it justice. I’d like to provide another perspective. First, I’ll give you some background.

I’m from the island. My sister Maia brings joy to many as Island Lumber’s garden center desk girl. The youngest sibling, Josie, is entering 7th grade at the public school. My mom Rain is an eco-activist and long-time organic gardener. My father Mark has been called one of the “best framers on Nantucket” who built many of the island’s homes over the last 35 years. I graduated from NHS in 2015 (Buckey and Cozort days) and moved back to the island this summer after getting a degree and work experience.

Now onto the two cents…

I spent the last six months living in short-term rentals in Mexico City. I can report back; there are few Mexicans remaining in large swaths of the history-rich city they used to call home.

They were replaced with high-income short-term renters.

A few locals and corporations gained control of the housing supply and are reaping incredible returns. Sure, they were foresightful to have made their investments, but at what cost to everyone else? Our “Short-Term Rental Work Group” was composed of some with undisclosed financial interests. I don’t know whose idea it was to let the fox guard the hen house.

We are a social animal, we need community. Nantucket’s unique ability to foster a sense of community is why we choose to be here and why outsiders are willing to pay millions to join. If we exchange community members for short-term renters we are not only undermining the fabric of our community, but our economy and property values too.

Nantucket was never a free market exercise. If you don’t believe me, watch a Historic District Commission or Planning Board meeting. Our success was enabled by long-term vision and common sense rules.

If you want to help, urge the Select Board to support sensible short-term rental guidelines. Full-time short-term rentals are hotels that belong in their designated zones. Part-time short-term rentals are acceptable as accessory use only, not by right. They should be limited to one per person.

This is not a debate to prioritize our community or the economy. This debate is about a few tricking the rest of us into sacrificing both.

Best regards,

Caleb Wursten

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