To the editor: We are year-round residents writing to share important information about two short-term rental (STR) articles that voters will consider at the Special Town Meeting on November 7th. If they pass, they will forever change Nantucket. Every resident should be concerned because they are giveaways to commercial STR interests.
The most egregious article is Article 2, a zoning change that would allow unlimited commercial STRs island-wide (houses that are full-time or primarily STRs). Article 2 would permanently protect commercial interests at the expense of our neighborhoods and year-round housing. It would encourage the commercialization of our neighborhoods and only make it harder for people to live and work here.
Article 1 is a General Bylaw amendment that consists of flawed regulations that will do nothing to prevent the expansion of commercial STRs in our neighborhoods. Additionally, critical parts are unenforceable according to the Health Director (8/17/23 Board of Health meeting) and open to legal challenges according to Town Counsel (8/16/23 Select Board meeting).
It is undeniable that the growth of STRs has exacerbated the housing crisis. Yet these articles do nothing to prevent Nantucket’s biggest problem from getting worse. According to the STRWG data consultant, 25% of Nantucket’s housing stock has been used as an STR recently (including at least 455 full-time STRs). At this rate, within five years, half the homes on the Island will be STRs and a growing portion will be commercial STRs. Meanwhile, census data shows Nantucket lost 600 year-round rentals in the last ten years.
Former STRWG members claim their proposal would “End all future corporate-owned STRs.” This is false. Corporations could grow their STR portfolios as long as “natural persons” represent them, a practice already in use by some corporations on Nantucket.
They also claim that it would “Discourage commercial (investment only) STRs.” This is also false. Article 2 would legalize unlimited commercial STRs across Nantucket. Nothing in either article would prevent all properties in residential areas to be used primarily or exclusively as STRs.
In addition, they claim that it would “Limit future STR ownership to just one property per owner.” This is false, too. It’s easy to see how anyone can partner with relatives, friends and others to own multiple STRs. A recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune describes how a “one per person” limit in San Diego hasn’t stopped one owner from owning over 100 STRs.
And, finally, they claim that it would “protect the property rights of current residential homeowners.” Once again, this is false. This proposal would go far beyond protecting local rental traditions and “grandfather” all commercial and full-time STRs operating in residential areas.
To be clear, we support the rights of residents to short-term rent so long as the property is used more often as a home, which is in line with longstanding island traditions.
It’s a shame that the workgroup was on a mission to legalize commercial STRs from the beginning. We need an independent group to develop reasonable (and enforceable) regulations that put our island community and residents first, and prohibit commercial STRs in residential districts.
We hope you’ll join us and vote NO on Articles 1 and 2 to help save our local community. Articles 1 and 2 will be first on the agenda. Please come out and vote on Tuesday, November 7th at 5 p.m. at the Nantucket High School auditorium.
Dr. Tim Lepore
Andrew G. Lowell
Thomas M. Montgomery