Yes On 60: Maintain Nantucket’s Traditions, Don't Become Disney
Patricia Stolte •
To the editor: Reading through the latest letters that bring “billionaires” into the short-term rental discussion, there’s a clear attempt to mislead and distract island residents from the real issues that are deteriorating our community: we may not have a Ph.D. after our name, but we’re not stupid.
Opposing sides of the STR issue both agree on one very important thing: the island’s current zoning needs to be amended because it does not provide for any STR use in residential districts. I know most of us living here are too busy to follow everything that’s happening, and there is so much distortion of the heart-of-the-matter when you read a “nugget” or see an ad.
A short version of how we’ve arrived at this point: Last year, the Planning Board introduced Article 42, which would have permanently allowed any STR use islandwide without restrictions. We, the voters, understood the disastrous implications and were ready to defeat Article 42, but a well-planned maneuver by a Planning Board member had the article tabled, thereby avoiding defeat, saving face and gaining more time to reconfigure their next move.
A year later, the STR workgroup meetings have not resolved the assigned task, dragging this on. No one living on Nantucket wants to permanently allow all STR use in all residential neighborhoods. We don’t. But we do know that we want to maintain Nantucket’s traditions and tourism economy, just not at the expense of becoming another Disneyland.
Article 60 is a good approach to protect our tradition of homeowners renting their homes to offset costs (but not make a living running a small hotel), while avoiding the complete commercialization of our precious, but declining, year-round neighborhoods.
I’m not sure why I’ve been surprised to see mailings and messages from VRBO, Airbnb and others in the STR industry who aren’t invested in our community trying to tell us how to think and vote. They are killing it with summer rentals, making money for themselves and their shareholders. And didn’t the Cape and Islands Chamber of Commerce just receive a large grant to create a campaign for tourism in the shoulder seasons? Do you wonder who will reap those monetary rewards and fight STR regulations more fiercely?
I own property that will be affected by the proposed zoning amendment, but I support it because I feel very strongly that Nantucket is going down a route that will make more of us just cash in our chips and move off-island. Remember those bumper stickers from the 1980s: “The Grey Lady has had the Meat” and “This is NOT Disney”?
Why are we back to that sentiment? Time is ticking. Do the most good with least harm: The most good is for the future of a Nantucket with a real community. The least harm would be to remove the use of our neighborhood homes as money-making machines. With another busy summer coming straight at us, please take time to go to Town Meeting on Saturday, May 6 and join me in voting yes for Article 60.