No More Scare Tactics: Vote Yes On 59 & 60

Galen Gardner •

To the editor: I remember the knock on the door. The day my aunt Pat Gardner got news that our beloved “Gardner Farm” owned by our family for generations, was suddenly not ours? A random family from elsewhere showed up with an old planting/grazing lease in hand to say that the land was theirs. And that my Aunt should start sending them tax bills. My memory serves that this first contact came in 1977- maybe a year or two on either side. To say that this sent shockwaves through my entire family would be glossing over the complete horror we all felt.

Then, my grandmother Katherine Gardner, Aunt Mary Patricia Gardner, my father Richard, and mother Shirley Gardner, started the long march toward getting sued in Land Court and funding what turned out to be a frivolous lawsuit. This case dragged on and on until my father’s passing in September of 1993. Well into almost two decades later the slow grind of land court resulted in a win for our family. But at what cost? Money that our family could have desperately used got diverted, hopes and dreams and plans got dashed, and our souls got ground down over the years.

As a child, I could feel the fear that my parents felt- a dark and menacing cloud hanging over us for years. This was trauma in general, but it also represents generational, emotional, and financial trauma that my immediate working-class family and I suffered. No one materialized out of the woodwork to help us. Back in the day, I guess we were all taught to take care of ourselves. I will never forget the fear we all felt at the thought of losing land that my family had worked with their bare hands, and with animals, producing milk and vegetables over generations could all be gone in a heartbeat. So when you walk the Gardner Farm, please know that there was a family trail of tears that led to your joy. And with it a deep and fierce love, that I will take to the grave. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. So I know a thing or two about land court, and court in general. When you can’t solve your problems, the court will solve them for you, but in my experience, the outcome is not what you would have chosen. Better to solve your problem yourself. And this is a major reason why I object to lawsuits as a method of solving Nantucket’s growth issues. Unless you have walked in those shoes, don’t judge.

This war against short-term rentals (STRs) is a fight that has been brought to our community, and it is the same as those who appeared at my family's door back in the 70s, who brought destruction and ruination to my family’s peace, prosperity, and plans. Just as my family did back then, my only choice has been to react, to stand up for my beliefs. And there are many like me who are reacting and standing up. We who were attacked as the sole source of Nantucket's problems are not going to accept the current dialog- frightening, uncivil, and mean-spirited, nor the delay tactics. No one plans a well-financed campaign without a game plan. This crusade against STR has been by design. Plan an enemy (STR), send the message over and over that this is the root of the problem Nantucket has (plan the big lie), attack people - create a crisis (lawsuits). You know what happens when you create a propaganda war, you get an insurgency. And now when the Aussie is nipping your heels it’s time to play hardball on social media and in news outlets. How sad that this is the new Nantucket.

It’s been four years since Candace Taylor of the Wall Street Journal wrote in June of 2021 about Nantucket’s short-term rental war pitting neighbors against one another. Who even knew that was a problem until a planned group of folks showed up at that ATM and threw it out there? And how did the Wall Street Journal even end up with a breaking story like this? And here we are on the eve of a revolutionary ATM. What might have happened if all the financing for ACK-NOW had embraced STR as part of the community and worked to make sure all were educated about the particulars of weeks/contracts etc? What if they had spent money to create and hire educators and lawyers who could hold workshops to educate and ensure that people knew how and what to vote for? Or to lobby VRBO and AIRBNB? Ever wonder (as I do because I am a teacher), why this topic keeps coming up? Because people have an interest, but the confusion reigns. Enter…the teacher.

For me and for many, a clear zoning law (Article 59) that protects our use of our property would allow us to sit down at a negotiation table to figure out how we regulate STRs. The law has to come first. Right now, there is not a legal voice telling me with 100% surety, that a neighbor is not going to sue me. And until that day comes, I will fight for a zoning law that is sensible and simple. And Nantucket’s history of STR needs to be taken into account - my parents and their friends and more teachers than I can count were not, and are not criminals, nor am I, for renting STR. We deserve a law. We are asking for a law, we are reacting to a fight brought to us, while others denigrate our leaders and us as tumbleweeds who don’t know what we are doing. Our history has always guided us, made us famous, and likely led us to the present day where we are feeling the effects of being close to “build-out”. We rely on town boards such as the HDC every day to ensure that our architectural history is not defiled by those who would bastardize it to their own ends. Which by the way happens every week- folks coming in wanting extra high buildings, glass walls, and God knows what else. The point being, we are all about history and STR is part of it!

As for listening to folks who have way more than I do, the online trolls, the paid-off non-profits, besmirch my character, well sigh, I’ve more than had enough, your comments happily in my rearview mirror. I am just a persevering, well-read, old farm girl who doesn’t like the double standard and spin that is going on around this issue. I think a group of citizens asking for a simple zoning law is well within the scope of island leadership and voters, this should be dealt with now. It is a fair ask. We have waited four years. But maybe that’s all part of the grand plan?! The true grassroots is calling you Nantucket. We have a choice to make. I hope we make the right one. Yes on 59/60. No more scare tactics, (to borrow a phrase)...


Galen Gardner

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