Another way to help housing.

The island community has been working on many initiatives to help solve the housing crisis. Big solutions are needed, but will take time. Meanwhile, we need all the help we can get to ensure year-round islanders find a stable, affordable home. That’s where the Community Impact Fee comes in. 

In 2019, when the Baker Administration expanded the lodging tax to include short-term rentals, it directly acknowledged the impact of STRs on housing and infrastructure. And it offered municipalities a number of tools to find a better balance. 

It’s common knowledge that the State collects a 5.7% lodging tax, while municipal governments have the option to impose up to an additional 6% (Nantucket’s current policy is 6%).

But the State also created other options, including the Community Impact Fee, targeting a subset of short-term rentals that put additional pressure on local housing, water, sewer, roads, etc. This local option fee can be up to 3%, and it ONLY applies to professionally-managed STRs. The State defines these as STRs in a multi-property portfolio of two or more investor-owned units.

Here’s how it can help in the near term. Local governments must set aside at least 35% of the tax collected to pay for affordable housing or infrastructure projects.

In the last year, eleven cities and towns have adopted the Community Impact Fee, including Amherst, Boston, Cambridge, Gloucester, Plymouth, and Swampscott. 

According to the State’s registry, 328 STRs on Nantucket qualify as professionally-managed and would get assessed a Community Impact Fee, if we elected this option. How much could the tax generate? If these properties rented for eight weeks at Nantucket’s average daily rate of $921 sourced from AirDNA, they could make $17M in rental income. Apply the 3% Community Impact Fee, and the Town would receive roughly $500,000 per year. Voters could elect to have all of it pay for housing and infrastructure projects.

The Community Impact Fee could be part of a comprehensive plan to address the way STRs are shaping the island and its community. We’ll be talking more about the impact of investor-owned STRs on housing soon. 


Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The community’s message to the Select Board.

The Nantucket community has a long history of coming together when it matters most, to make things right. This time it’s about Ashley Erisman and Mark Beale, two very qualified Conservation Commission incumbents who have served in a balanced fashion. They both deserve to be reappointed, but for some inexplicable reason, the Select Board’s replaced Ashley Erisman – an experienced high school biology teacher, and team player, with a background in wetland resources and regulations – with a candidate out of left field.

There’s something wrong here – and the community is standing up. We hope the Select Board rights this wrong in its meeting on Monday. 

In the meantime, please write to the Select Board asking them to do the right thing. It’s essential to convey to the Select Board that both incumbents – Ashley Erisman AND Mark Beale – should be reappointed for another 3-year term. 

Select Board email addresses: jbridges@nantucket-ma.govkferrantella@nantucket-ma.govmmurphy@nantucket-ma.govmfee@nantucket-ma.govdhillholdgate@nantucket-ma.gov

Dear Select Board,

I am urging you to reappoint BOTH incumbents to the Con Com. Ashley Erisman AND Mark Beale are fair and objective. Together they have the scientific knowledge and experience to serve the community.

Thank you for your consideration.


Thank you for your help and enjoy your Sunday.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The environment should be the priority.

Appointments to local boards, committees, and commissions are typically straightforward and predictable – the most qualified person is selected to serve. But this week left us shocked by the Select Board’s choice for a critical seat on the Conservation Commission. Like many, we thought the incumbent Chair with extensive scientific expertise and six years on the Commission was the obvious choice. Instead, 4 out of 5 Select Board members opted for a new candidate with less relevant experience. Their reasoning? More balance.

We spoke with Emily Molden, Executive Director for the Nantucket Land Council. She’s spent the last 15 years attending Con Com meetings, reviewing permit applications, and providing an outside perspective to emphasize protecting Nantucket’s fragile environment. She’s just as surprised (and disappointed) by the appointment. She believes “the collective board that served this past year has proven open, reasonable and fair, while implementing the wetland regulations.” Select Board members claiming the need for more balance would imply too many waivers or denials for projects. But Emily says, “The Commission spends weeks working with applicants to address concerns and balance the interests of property owners as well as resource areas.”

The Conservation Commission’s main charge is to review and issue permits for any work within 100 feet of a “wetland resource area” – this includes beaches, dunes, ponds, and land subject to flooding. It’s the only local regulatory body required to consider and protect our most sensitive environmental areas from continued development pressures.

Beautiful and healthy beaches, dunes, harbors, ponds – all reasons why so many are drawn to Nantucket. According to Nantucket Data Platform’s 2019 Island Life Survey, natural beauty is the #1 reason why year-round residents stay, and the #1 reason why summer residents move here and stay here.
The Select Board itself has identified Environmental Leadership as a top priority in its Strategic Plan. The Town has put coastal resilience at the top of the list, too – leading voters to authorize $550,000 for coastal resiliency planning and creating the Coastal Resilience Advisory Committee.

As Emily puts it so well, ” If the Select Board is genuinely interested in protecting our coastal and wetland resources, which will ensure the future of the island and its economy, I hope they will reconsider their idea of balance. The Conservation Commission is THE entity that is doing this work for them.”

Enjoy your Sunday evening.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The Hamptons – before and after.

As we continue to investigate communities that have tried to strike a balance between the rising impact of short-term rentals and quality of life for residents, it’s hard to ignore a fellow getaway destination: The Hamptons.

In East Hampton, residents had concerns that short-term rentals were disrupting residential neighborhoods, and that tenants and guests weren’t all staying in safe conditions. They also believed the focus on short-short-term rentals was leading to more and more transient visitors with no attachment to the community. In 2016, the town introduced two significant changes: a Rental Registry and a 14-day minimum stay.

Some realtors worried the minimum stay requirement would slow the demand for vacation rentals. They were proved wrong. The following summer, real estate market leaders acknowledged that rentals were in line with the previous year. They also found there were fewer complaints of big parties and neighborhood disruption.

COVID changed everything. One realtor we connected with said his phone is ringing off the hook with people wishing to leave the city, looking for month-long and seasonal rentals. Of course, the Hamptons are attractive, given their proximity to New York City. But we wonder, did the transition to a 14-day minimum establish a clientele with an appetite towards renting even longer?

Town Councilwoman of East Hampton, Sylvia Overby, says the short-term rental ordinance was created to discourage a house from “becoming a business in the center of a neighborhood.” The goal is to encourage longer-term renters, with the thought these renters could someday “become part of the community.”

Like most of the communities we encounter, the rules are much different for residents who rent part of their home. In East Hampton, that means non-resident owners must register their rental whether they rent for two weeks, by the month, or for the year. The focus is on safety. 

Generally speaking, communities are more lenient towards local homeowners who make ends meet by renting a room or a garage apartment. We’ll go into more detail next week.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The shorter version of our short-term rental work.

Perhaps you’ve been too busy to read last week’s white paper on short-term rentals and the impact they’ve had on Nantucket?

If so, here’s a one-page summary with the highlights. Click the image to go directly to the full-size version. Not only have we been creating this piece, but we have also begun to make plans for a community-wide conversation. We hope you’ll take part. 

May you have a solemn and thought-provoking Memorial Day.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

The long and short-term of it.

Our team has been working on a white paper. We started this research well before the coronavirus made national headlines. The topic is short-term rentals – the rise of online platforms and their impact on Nantucket.

While short-term rentals may be drastically different this summer, we must plan ahead of the next growth wave. The goal is to begin a community conversation towards a solution. Let’s start with the obvious. Why short-term rentals? Why now?

#1. We can no longer ignore the direct link between the short-term rental market and the growing housing crisis. Nantucket Data Platform’s study of housing demand and supply has brought measurable insights. Housing advocates around the country have sounded the alarm for years.

#2. Nantucket has many short-term rentals operated like businesses. Yet, they get preferential treatment (property taxes, inspections) over local industries and businesses. The State’s expansion of the lodging tax to short-term rentals has given us new data on their prevalence and ownership.

#3. Their impact on neighborhoods, public infrastructure, traffic, the environment, etc. is real. We’ve all known this was happening, but haven’t looked into it much.

There is more to the story.

Nantucket is unique, and solutions must fit the community’s long-term vision for the island. Visit our website to download your copy of the Short-Term Rental white paper.

Happy Sunday.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

Short-Term Rentals

Click to download the ACK•Now Short-Term Rental Fact Sheet:

Click to download the ACK•Now white paper:

And if you want the Reader’s Digest version, here’s a summary of the findings.

For a printer-friendly version click below:

Additional Reference Material

The Economics of Fiber

The Economics of FiberWe’re all online these days. Working from home and accessing classes online is our only option. Not to mention, relying on the internet and cellphones to get in touch with loved ones. 

But how’s that working on Nantucket? Having spotty service is a common thing here. Lots of frozen Zooms and choppy conversations. Many have come to accept this as a quirk of living 30 miles out to sea. But maybe it takes a crisis to bring about change.

That’s where OpenCape comes in. 

OpenCape is a nonprofit out of Barnstable that operates an open-access fiber-optic network serving local governments, businesses, and residents of Southeastern Mass, the Cape & Islands. By acting as competition to traditional internet providers, OpenCape has improved service and brought down pricing for its customers. We spoke with CEO, Steven Johnston, and it just so happens Nantucket is high on his priority list.

Steven explained that laying fiber-optic cable across the Nantucket Sound is a lot easier and cheaper than adding a third electric cable. He estimates it would cost $6.5 million to bring “unlimited capacity” to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. From there we could go one of two routes. We could follow in the Cape’s footsteps and grow organically by connecting businesses and others who can afford to run lines. Or, we as a community could build and operate our own network. Just like Westfield, MA. 

Westfield saw the opportunity to invest in a fiber-optic infrastructure as a necessity, like gas and electricity. Today, town-owned Whip City Fiber provides broadband access to over 70% of the community. The demand is so high it’s expanding to neighboring towns. As one resident put it: “It’s a valuable, locally owned utility. No rental fees for equipment, one flat rate month to month with no surprise charges.” It’s fast enough that many customers have gotten rid of cable altogether.

Fiber is also the key to reliable cell phone reception. In fact, it’s critical to 5G mobile networks.  

How much would it cost to build an island-wide network? The CEO of OpenCape thinks between $15-$20 million. Add the cost of laying the cabling in the Sound, and we have an island on fiber for under $30 million. Not out of reach when compared to sewer projects.

Why do we need a stronger connection to the world? Fiber-optic is an economic development tool. We need it to improve a small business’ ability to operate, grow career opportunities for islanders, raise the standard of living, and over time diversify the economy beyond tourism and construction. 

Ultimately, it’s one more step towards a more resilient island. 

The Economics of Fiber

We’re all online these days. Working from home and accessing classes online is our only option. Not to mention, relying on the internet and cellphones to get in touch with loved ones. 

But how’s that working on Nantucket? Having spotty service is a common thing here. Lots of frozen Zooms and choppy conversations. Many have come to accept this as a quirk of living 30 miles out to sea. But maybe it takes a crisis to bring about change.

That’s where OpenCape comes in. 

OpenCape is a nonprofit out of Barnstable that operates an open-access fiber-optic network serving local governments, businesses, and residents of Southeastern Mass, the Cape & Islands. By acting as competition to traditional internet providers, OpenCape has improved service and brought down pricing for its customers. We spoke with CEO, Steven Johnston, and it just so happens Nantucket is high on his priority list.

Steven explained that laying fiber-optic cable across the Nantucket Sound is a lot easier and cheaper than adding a third electric cable. He estimates it would cost $6.5 million to bring “unlimited capacity” to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. From there we could go one of two routes. We could follow in the Cape’s footsteps and grow organically by connecting businesses and others who can afford to run lines. Or, we as a community could build and operate our own network. Just like Westfield, MA. 

Westfield saw the opportunity to invest in a fiber-optic infrastructure as a necessity, like gas and electricity. Today, town-owned Whip City Fiber provides broadband access to over 70% of the community. The demand is so high it’s expanding to neighboring towns. As one resident put it: “It’s a valuable, locally owned utility. No rental fees for equipment, one flat rate month to month with no surprise charges.” It’s fast enough that many customers have gotten rid of cable altogether.

Fiber is also the key to reliable cell phone reception. In fact, it’s critical to 5G mobile networks.  

How much would it cost to build an island-wide network? The CEO of OpenCape thinks between $15-$20 million. Add the cost of laying the cabling in the Sound, and we have an island on fiber for under $30 million. Not out of reach when compared to sewer projects.

Why do we need a stronger connection to the world? Fiber-optic is an economic development tool. We need it to improve a small business’ ability to operate, grow career opportunities for islanders, raise the standard of living, and over time diversify the economy beyond tourism and construction. 

Ultimately, it’s one more step towards a more resilient island. 

Happy Mother’s Day. 

Julia Lindner
Executive Director

Community Resilience

Attempting to get back to normal feels strange right now. While we recognize the preoccupation with getting back to work and opening the island, we also believe this represents a good time to (re)think the future.

Let’s start with a question.

Are we responsible for planning and paying for infrastructure that will benefit the community decades or generations from now? After all, our water system, sewer system, and road system were all built 100 years ago.

It’s been a topic of discussion for the Coastal Resiliency Advisory Committee (CRAC). The committee’s mission is to provide the Town and community thoughtful guidance and data-driven information, all of which consider coastal resilience. But as Chairwoman Mary Longacre explained, “The entire island is affected in one way or another by the impacts of climate change when it comes to public infrastructure and private development, not just coastal areas. “

At last year’s Annual Town Meeting, voters authorized the spending of up to $550,000 on coastal resiliency planning. The Town’s Coastal Resilience Coordinator, Vince Murphy, sought input from the CRAC to put together an RFP seeking consultants to conduct an island-wide analysis, including a risk assessment and proposed solutions. The public will have the chance to weigh in.

Wetland expert and Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s appointed representative on the committee, Jen Karberg, explained that potential solutions could target a specific area or the entire island. They might be innovative physical solutions or more traditional ones, such as suggested changes to zoning, regulations, or upgrades to infrastructure. She mentioned the importance of addressing our transportation network running through downtown in a corridor, particularly at risk (e.g., Washington St).

Before the virus, the committee was getting ready to formulate recommendations to Town boards (e.g., ConCom, Planning Board, Select Board). In essence, while the consultants are hard at work, there is an opportunity to integrate the current science (erosion, storm surge and sea-level rise data) into the planning of private development and public projects.

We see strong potential in the approach of the CRA Committee. Planning and building on the island should always have the future in mind. As Mary put it, “It’s everyone’s responsibility to invest in the community and the future history of Nantucket.”

Together we can collectively shape and build a resilient future. We need to ask ourselves how we interact with our island and what solutions are required. Because in the end we only have one coast, one shore, one island.

Happy Sunday.

Julia Lindner
Executive Director