Supporters Of Article 59 Trying To Scare Homeowners Into "YES" Vote

Peter McCausland •

To the editor: Almost all of the letters supporting Article 59 have been written by people who have a direct or indirect financial interest in commercial STRs (i.e. houses where STR is the principal use; houses which are used for STR more than by the owner or long term lessee). Their self-interest is bad enough but their attempts to mislead voters and their personal attacks are deplorable.

For example, Ed Sanford is a real estate professional who stands to gain when STR investors buy houses on Nantucket because those houses turn over much more frequently than those purchased by families as year-round or seasonal homes. Ed Sanford is not a lawyer and obviously can’t correctly interpret Judge Vhay’s decision. In his blatant attempt to mislead, he only cites the sentences he likes and missed the Judge’s most important pronouncement in the last paragraph of his decision:


Unfortunately, Mr. Sanford missed a couple of other good lines in the opinion. Judge Vhay held that an accessory use is one that is “subordinate and customarily incidental to a permitted use on the same lot”. Mr. Sanford is deliberately attempting to mislead voters, just like the Planning Department has been doing regarding STRs in residential zoning districts. Judge Vhay’s decision is the law and the Town has decided not to appeal because they knew it is the law even before the Town Counsel warned them in 2021. Unfortunately for Nantucket, the Town chose to ignore the law for the benefit of commercial interests such as Mr. Sanford’s.

And Mr. Sanford’s most shameful comment falsely describes the Nantucket tradition of rentals and ACKNow’s position. He writes, “Annual Town Meeting could end ACKNow’s continued attack on the tradition of summer vacation rentals by enacting a new zoning bylaw expressly permitting the island custom of short-term rentals and then regulating them as Town Meeting sees fit.” The Nantucket tradition of STRs consists of using them as an accessory use by islanders and seasonal residents, which we have always supported. However, we don’t support commercial STRs, 80% of which are owned by off-island investors. Mr. Sanford seems to have concluded that lying about what Judge Vhay decided and what the opponents of Article 59 stand for is a winning strategy for Article 59. We have more faith in Nantucket voters.

We have been saying STRs are not a legal principal use in residential districts for a long time. We are glad that we could support several neighbors who have been tormented by mini hotels. Maybe Mr. Sanford should stop trying to shame these neighbors and admit that they were right. They aren’t litigious or mean-spirited; they just want to enjoy their homes and their neighborhoods. Mr. Sanford, when your non-commercial clients look at potential new homes, do you disclose the readily available information on the locations of STRs in the neighborhood?

Maybe NAREB should adopt such a standard in fairness to the buyers. Most would rather deal with termites than a mini hotel next door. Article 59 might be good for your pocketbook, but it would be a disaster for Nantucket, and that is why we continue to support community groups in opposition.

Also, there was a recent letter written by Cheryl Emery that included a distasteful ad hominem attack on me, my wife and hundreds of ACKNow supporters to which I will not respond. I do wonder why, if her property really is her home, she is alarmed by the accessory use articles floating around that say a homeowner can STR almost as much as she uses the property herself? Is it because she is running a commercial STR in violation of the zoning bylaw interpreted by Judge Vhay in a decision that the Town declined to appeal?

Nantucket voters established residential zoning in 1972. The primary reason for residential zoning is to protect neighborhoods and to prevent nuisance lawsuits, and all properties are subject to these legal restrictions on property rights because they benefit the community. ACKNow decided to support neighbors three years ago because the Planning Department was supporting commercial interests with their zoning interpretations at the expense of the neighbors and neighborhoods. If you are looking for someone to blame, look no further than the Town; don’t blame neighbors who just want to enjoy their homes and neighborhoods. The Town wasted a huge amount of taxpayer money making up their own zoning laws and then losing in court; but worse, the Town’s STR Workgroup engaged in the public shaming of neighbors who wanted nothing more than the protections of residential zoning. Now it seems that Ms. Emery and Ms. Gardner are doing the same.

Another letter writer, Galen Gardner, stated, “I’ve chosen to write this in protest of a group of folks who chose to sue homeowners over renting their Nantucket home.” Apparently, the outcome of the Ward case seems to have escaped her, too. Let’s be clear on the facts, Ms. Gardner: Mrs. Ward ONLY challenged her neighbors’ “principal use” of their property as a short-term rental (STR). She did not challenge “renting their Nantucket home” as you misleadingly state. In fact, Mrs. Ward has rented her home in the past. The number one scare tactic of the pro-59, commercial STR owners is to cloth themselves in the garments of homeowners living in their homes more than they rent. This is the worst kind of gaslighting.

Homeowners who love their houses and neighborhoods will vote NO on 59 because they can rent almost as much as they live in their houses and still have the protection of residential zoning. This was true before the Judge ruled and is true today.

Many of the letters supporting Article 59 want the readers to believe that the Land Court outlawed STRs. To the contrary, Judge Vhay’s decision recognized the right of Nantucket homeowners to rent their properties on an accessory use basis and doesn’t infringe on property rights. Instead, it protects the rights of homeowners by allowing them to peacefully enjoy their properties and to rent their properties in the Nantucket tradition.

Lastly, Ms. Gardner brings up the Lease to Locals program and laments that ACKNow Community Initiatives has proposed having the town support this program going forward. She ignores the tremendous subsidies which commercial STR owners enjoy. And, she apparently doesn’t realize that Nantucket’s trial program was the only privately financed program of its type in the country. With 22 placements, of which 9 were STR conversions, 60 Nantucket residents are in long term leased properties. Several of them work at the hospital. There are 20 potential placements on the waitlist. It only makes sense that the Town should support a proven program to address the housing crisis.

Ms. Emery, Ms. Gardner, Ed Sanford, and Steven Cohen represent the commercial interests which are turning the Nantucket community into a rental park. They all have published misleading, and sometimes false, letters to persuade voters, and some have engaged in personal attacks, but not one has disclosed their direct or indirect financial interests in commercial STRs. Voters should not listen to their nonsense. Homeowners have the right to rent almost as much as they occupy their properties. This has been the Nantucket tradition for a long time. The commercial STR interests are telling you differently to scare you into voting for Article 59. If it passes, voters who need to rent will have to compete with investor STRs who have huge tax breaks and are subsidized by taxpayers. Don’t fall for it and vote NO on Article 59!


Peter McCausland

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