Why Isn't The STR Workgroup Considering Other Options?

Carl Jelleme •

To the editor,

It's twice now that island voters have rejected zoning changes to allow full-time STRs to operate anywhere on the Island. The STR workgroup must think that three times is the charm because its draft articles propose the same thing.

The workgroup is spending hours discussing how many STRs any human being can have on Nantucket and how to protect all existing corporate STRs, and the centerpiece of the proposal is plain and simple: to gut our residential zoning.

Why isn't the workgroup seriously considering other options? As it stands, this package wouldn't do anything to stop the commercialization of our neighborhoods, our housing, and our island. Instead, it would pave the way for commercial STR interests.

How did we get here?

#1. After the highest court in the Commonwealth said that STRs are commercial and inconsistent with residential zoning, the Planning Board brought Article 42 to the 2022 Town Meeting to "fix" our zoning with across-the-board legalization of STRs island-wide. Voters were ready to reject it when the Planning Board asked voters to send both STR zoning articles on the warrant to a study committee.

#2. Before forming the workgroup, the Select Board went out of its way to get waivers from the State to appoint people with direct financial interests in STRs to the workgroup. It looks like a way to control the outcome and get to another Article 42.

#3. Unfortunately, the STRWG hadn't finished its "work" when the 2023 Town Meeting rolled around, so it pleaded with voters to turn down all STR articles and give them another 6 months. Linda Williams's Article 61, the second attempt to legalize full-time STRs across the Island, was voted down by 73 percent.

Now, after asking for more time and more money for consultants, the STRWG will try to sell us on a feel-good "mission accomplished." It's clear to anyone watching that what's being proposed is to protect the real estate lobbies and commercial STR interests at the expense of our community. It’s what the Planning Board has been pushing all along.

Given the importance, members of the workgroup, Select Board, Planning Board, and FinCom should disclose their financial interests tied to STRs. Voters have a right to know before the next vote.

Unless the proposal changes drastically, we won’t support it - and we will keep fighting for real solutions because the future of our island and its people depends on it.

Carl Jelleme, ACKNow Chair

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