Article 60 Means We Lose Our Family Cottage On Nantucket
Alison B. Taylor •
To the editor: I was born and raised on Nantucket but like many of my peers, I moved away 30 years ago due to the housing shortage, and tired of doing the summer shuffle. Still, I will always be an islander and Nantucket will always be my home. It saddens me to have to write this letter, but I can’t let my island heritage be taken away without speaking up. In short, Article 60 will cost this 5th generation Nantucket family to lose their island legacy, and we are not alone.
In a response to an email I sent to the President of ACK Now, regarding how we could save our Madaket cottage if Article 60 passes, he had two suggestions; we winterize the cottage for a long-term rental, or rent by the month. Neither of his suggestions are viable for us, so I find myself here. I want people to understand what Article 60 means, not just to us, but to many of our island friends and neighbors.
Our cottage in Madaket was bought by grandfather, Elmore Taylor, as a boat house over 60 years ago. My grandpa and my dad, Robert Taylor, both well- known carpenters on the island, converted it to a cottage shortly thereafter. We “stay-cationed” there from town when we were growing up taking the Madaket bus to school. I once took my horse out there for our week vacation from town. My childhood memories of “Topside” are endless. Our parents and grandparents worked hard to preserve this treasure for the next generation. It will be heartbreaking if we can’t hang onto it for ours.
Our cottage is not winterized and would be cost prohibitive to do so. The creek water often floods the crawl space in stormy weather. The cottage itself needs constant repairs. We love our local contractor who works hard on yearly repairs and somehow keeps it from collapsing. Most importantly, our septic is fragile and could not handle winter tenants. The cost of this new system is going to be well over $100,000 and we were depending on our summer tenants to pay off the inevitable bank loan.
We do not advertise our cottage on websites. We rent to almost entirely repeat tenants. Some have rented since my parents owned the property many years ago. We’ve already had to increase each rental by 11.7% to cover the new state/town tax. We don’t command a high rent, as rents go on Nantucket, because it’s a cottage with no dishwasher, AC, or any of the fancy things that take away from it being an old cottage. Our Tenants are not rich people. Am I supposed to tell them unless they rent for a month, they are no longer welcome? So, will we only be able to rent to wealthy people who can afford a month on Nantucket? We rent from mid-May until the end of September, during this time my siblings (2) and I each take a week that we squeeze in between rental weeks. This is the only benefit we get from owning this cottage. Super high property taxes, the constant repairs, cleaning, plumbing, and this list goes on, eat up any profit that we might’ve gained. If we rent by the month, we would lose the only time the 3 of us get to stay in Madaket, which is the whole point of having the cottage.
We are not investors and in fact, there are no investors on our street, just families like us. I’ve asked the President of ACK Now just how many STR’s are actually owned by investors? I’ve yet to get that answer from him, or anyone else for that matter. If Investor STR’s are the problem one would think ACK Now would know how many there are? Perhaps a better solution to the housing problem would be to limit all new construction to 3 bedrooms (or less) one bath homes.
The bottom line is if Article 60 passes we’ll most likely have to sell our cottage. It will go to the highest bidder who will then destroy it and build the biggest house possible on our tiny lot. These people won’t have to rent. This isn’t just my story. We are not alone. Many of my friends, your friends, and neighbors will find themselves in this same situation. When we’re all forced to sell these properties will also go to the highest bidder, and likely sit empty for 8 months of the year, or more. The cost of a summer rental will prohibit anyone but the very wealthy from renting on the island and island businesses will suffer. How will the town make up for the 5.7 percent rental tax our tenants pay? Once that shortfall hits the town everyone’s already high taxes will go up yet again.
I honestly never thought the fate of my island heritage and my rights as a property owner could be taken away by a hand vote in a room full of people in five minutes. Please consider all the small fish in the big net of Article 60 and Vote NO. Thanks for your time.
Forever an islander,
Alison B. Taylor