To the editor: We, the undersigned former members of the STRWG, would like to offer an explanation from our perspective about what has taken place in the last nine months and during the last week.
First, we would all like to express our heartfelt appreciation to the numerous people who have helped and supported the STRWG for the past 9 months. Town employees Megan Trudel, Adrian Rodriquez, and Erika Mooney have been extremely helpful and responsive in facilitating communication and logistics. Our town counsel, John Giorgio and planning consultant, Judi Barrett, have worked tirelessly to help us understand very complicated issues. Matt Haffenreffer and Alex Judge at Process First have gone above and beyond to respond in real-time, eking out every possible data point that they could give us. We would also like to thank Penny Dey and NAREB for sharing their data to augment our understanding of the rental picture. Moderator Stacie Smith and Simenesh Semine from the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) have given us valuable guidance throughout the process.
We would also like to thank the Select Board for initiating this process and supporting our endeavors through the investments they have provided. Finally, we would like to thank members of the public who have participated in this process to date. Your input has been essential to our understanding of this complex issue.
The nine people plus alternates who have been serving on the STRWG for the past nine months have poured our hearts and souls into this process. In addition to more than 25 lengthy meetings, we have all spent time reading everything we could find about STRs and analyzing all of the nuances and subtleties of the data and a variety of possible regulations. Our primary focus has been about understanding and considering the families that love Nantucket, both year-round and seasonal, and how they would be impacted by the policies we propose.
Despite claims to the contrary, we have spent quite a lot of time considering whether it would be best to use a primary or accessory-use zoning approach. We had numerous discussions about the idea of accessory use, and we received feedback multiple times from town counsel and our planning consultant. Both of these experts repeatedly recommended primary-use zoning. The fact of the matter is that 7 (and really 8) out of the 9 of us, despite coming from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds, took in all of the data and considerations and came to the conclusion that the best way to proceed was to allow STRs as a primary use, but only with significant regulations through the general bylaw. Those who have been adamant about allowing STRs as only an accessory use had 9 months to convince us that this was the best policy. Despite requests, they declined to provide specifics and details about how accessory use would work and what the implications of this approach would be for Nantucket families. They seemed unwilling to even consider the other approach. In the end, they were not able to offer a compelling enough argument to convince even one of us. Perhaps this means that the majority’s conclusion should be respected rather than dismissed.
To be clear, this workgroup was comprised of local year-round and seasonal residents who love Nantucket. Some have rented their homes, and some have not. Eight out of the 9 were volunteers, people who devoted hours and hours to learning about this issue from every possible angle. Our proposed package is the byproduct of 9 months of hard work, negotiation, and compromise. In fact, this process has provided evidence that people can work together and develop solutions if they can listen to each other with open minds. The claim that the group was biased from the start is patently untrue. None of us would have predicted what this package would have looked like at the start of this process. None of us would say that this package offers the perfect solution, because that is not possible. All of us have some ongoing concerns, but we feel that this combination of regulations is a good start for addressing the goals that have been identified. The systems that would be put in place as a result of these policies would provide data for decisions going forward for many years into the future.
Since we know that there is no perfect solution to the issues that confront us, we expected to receive some constructive criticism, questions, and feedback at the recent Select Board meeting. However, given the amount of time and effort we have invested, we were disheartened by the dismissive and unfavorable attitude our work received from two members. Our decision to resign from the group at this time, however, was primarily due to the fact that our work on developing the proposed package is largely done, and also because there is no framework for us to continue meeting as an appointed town workgroup, especially given open meeting law requirements. In order to advocate for our package of regulations, ironically, we have no choice but to resign.
We respectfully request that the Select Board allow this package to be taken to the Special Town Meeting in November for the consideration of the voters. We know that our package is complicated, but we believe that it is a nuanced, effective approach. We look forward to assisting in the efforts to educate the public about our recommendations, the rationales behind them, and the possible resulting implications and effects.
Karen Zagayko Peter Schaeffer
Kathy Baird John Kitchener
David Iverson Jim Sulzer