To the editor: The topic of enforceability of current and future short-term rental (STR) regulations has been raised by the Board of Health (BOH) and in recent public forums. It is a topic worth careful consideration and I believe most would support an effective means of enforcement as a key component of the success of the current or future regulations contained in Chapter 123 of the Town Code – Regulating the Operation of STRs.
As a former member of the STR Work Group and participant in the evaluation team for the selection of the new vendor to implement the Nantucket STR registry, I have some thoughts that may be helpful to the town and voters as they make their decisions at STM.
1) the selection criteria for the new STR registry vendor included consideration of their support service offerings as well as software capabilities. It is important that the new vendor offers a hotline and an online portal for noise and nuisance complaints that vendor staff will evaluate to make actionable recommendations to the town, taking much of that burden off the town. They also offer end-user support and training for the town and STR operators.
2) The BOH has been offered assistance from former members of the STRWG and the evaluation team to design how data and required information is collected, confirmed and evaluated in the portal so the opportunity to streamline the process for the town and STR operators is a logical next step. For example, monitoring changes of occupancy in real-time may not be required as that is not how proposed regulations have been stated. Uploading proof of that information by the STR operator could be specifically defined and be a component of annual renewal if Article 1 is passed. The burden of proof of ownership is similarly the responsibility of the STR operator.
3) The funding mechanism for enforcement is clearly defined in the amount set by the BOH for the annual registration fee. If we use the most recently set amount of $250 per STR and use the ProcessFirst count of 2,460+/- STRs, that generates more than $600,000 annually to cover the new vendor contract (less than $85,000 annually), with the remainder available to fund staffing or additional services for enforcement. Enforcement will include follow-up on complaints as well as submitted registration information but much of that work could be done virtually, through online research by vendor services. This could be done by a work team that lives off-island and will not need housing or perhaps by a well-supervised team of locals with those skill sets. Would high school students filling their community service requirements be an option?
Even with the STR regulations already in effect, the BOH is being asked to take on a new role and additional work that it is not currently staffed, nor ‘in their wheelhouse’. Let’s help them design and roll out an effective registry and enforcement model so it is not a barrier to supporting Articles 1 and 2 at the Special Town Meeting.
7 Gloucester Street