Introduction Of Article 60 Is Premature

Peggy McCarthy •

To the editor: I am writing to urge a “no” vote on Article 60. It could destroy an important segment of the fabric of Nantucket—vacation rentals in homes owned by second-home owners. This has been a vital component of the island since the turn of the 20th century and an economic driver.

The introduction of Article 60 is premature. Why the rush when the town’s short-term rental work group is studying all facets of the issue and collecting data? It makes sense to vote “no” to Article 60 and wait until fall for the work group’s report so that any future action can be based on solid information. I hope that study will include the economic impact on the island of individual second-home owners, who are taxed at a higher rate and along with their vacation renters, help keep local businesses and non-profit entities afloat by their patronage.

My husband and I bought our modest house in 1984. Article 60 wants to control the amount of days we spend in our island home, which we worked hard to buy and continue to work hard to maintain. Under the proposal, if we can’t be there for more days than we rent because of off-island employment (which helps support this house) and other commitments, then we wouldn’t be able to rent. Are proponents trying to get rid of us?

Unfortunately, the article puts homes like ours in the same category as rental properties owned by businesses with no personal interest in Nantucket other than money. These businesses and their effect on neighborhoods are legitimate concerns. Isn’t there a way to regulate these without penalizing individual homeowners like me, my husband, and others? This is something I hope the work force is looking into—a good reason to wait until that work is completed.

Proponents of Article 60 call it a “simple” solution. There is nothing simple about it. It appears to be a way to eliminate most vacation rentals. Isn’t tourism what put Nantucket on the map—after whaling?

In its statements, ACK Now - the organization leading the fight for Article 60 - divides Nantucketers into just two groups: year-round residents and investors, ignoring the existence of homeowners like us. We bought our house because we fell in love with the island. When our son was a little boy, he used to kiss the ground when he arrived on the island. We have lots of friends on Nantucket, including residents who have been integral parts of our lives for nearly 40 years.

Vacation rentals help us pay for the rising costs of maintaining our island home—caretakers, cleaners, lawn care, utilities, garbage collection, carpenters, painters, plumbers, the higher tax rate imposed on non-resident homeowners. In doing so, we are supporting livelihoods of local residents and subsidizing the town, without using such major town services as schools.

I used to receive ACK Now emails. When they arrived I learned what the expression “it makes your blood boil” means. When I read their statements in local papers, it feels like my heart is being pierced.

Frankly, I don’t know how Article 60 would be enforced. Would the town have to hire employees to keep track of days spent in houses by renters and owners? That sounds costly, cumbersome and intrusive. Would neighbors be expected to spy?

Recently, a letter to residents called short-term rentals illegal. Town Planning Director Andrew Vorce called the claim false. It was disheartening to see that some prominent individuals signed it. Have they always believed this? Among the signers are people with businesses and professional offices that have been paid by summer vacationers and second homeowners for goods they purchased and services they received. Did they believe they were taking money from lawbreakers?

It’s noteworthy that no sacrifices are being asked of second-home owners who don’t need to rent their island houses.

Proponents claim that Article 60 can result in affordable year-round housing. I don’t see it. I can’t make a connection between trying to require me to spend a certain amount of days in my house if I want to rent and any effect on year-round housing. If the proponents are truly interested in affordable year-round housing, clearly a pressing need, why not focus their time and money on devising real solutions?

As a second-home owner, I don’t have a vote at town meeting. All I can do is urge those who do to please vote “no” on Article 60.

Peggy McCarthy

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