A win for the Island at the 2022 Annual Town Meeting.

With your help, Island voters achieved a great victory at Town Meeting on May 2, 2022. They took an essential step toward a sensible approach to Short-Term Rental (STR) zoning to protect our residents, communities, and neighborhoods.

Thank you to everyone who attended Town Meeting and supported our efforts to turn voters out to oppose the Planning Board Article 42, which would have allowed unrestricted, unlimited commercial STRs everywhere on the Island.

Despite tens of thousands of dollars in paid advertising, slick mailers, and signs featuring misinformation and scare tactics by large off-island corporate interests, voters rejected Article 42’s radical approach.

Nantucket voters made their voices heard loud and clear – they want sensible regulations and guidelines for STRs that can protect our Island from continued rampant, unregulated development of commercial STRs or “mini-hotels” in residential neighborhoods.

Now that the threat of Article 42 is behind us, our community needs to work together to craft a proposal that protects residents, year-round housing, and our neighborhoods.

We hope you will stay engaged on this critical issue. To help, we will provide updates on the process and identify opportunities to contribute.

A quick aside, congrats to Matt Fee and Brooke Mohr for their election to the Select Board! Another win for the Island!

Thanks again for your support.

Up next: The STR workgroup.

Town Meeting sent the proposed Article 42 (facing strong opposition from voters) to a “committee” for further work. Article 42 would have allowed unlimited commercial STRs anywhere on the Island, including residential areas. Leading up to Town Meeting – and on Town Meeting floor – many voters voiced their concerns about Article 42’s radical approach.  

Once the motion was made to send Article 42 to a “committee” for further work, an amendment was proposed and passed to send Citizens’ Article 43 to the same committee. Article 43 would have created reasonable zoning regulations for STRs – ensuring that residents maintain the right to STR their homes while prohibiting purely commercial STRs in neighborhoods.

In response to the actions of Town Meeting, an organizational committee – made up of 2 members from each of the Select Board, Planning Board and Finance Committee – met to start defining the STR workgroup and its objectives.

Ahead of this meeting, many community members requested that the STR workgroup be comprised of a balance of viewpoints.

We all want this process to be successful; for this to happen, it’s essential to have a wide range of perspectives at the table. It is very concerning that most of the groups proposed to have representatives – see the list below – were vocal supporters of Article 42, which voters rejected at Town Meeting. STRs are a community-wide issue, and we should work to ensure all viewpoints are represented. This starts with the membership of the workgroup. 

The impact of the Styller v. Lynnfield decision on Nantucket.

A recent Supreme Judicial Court decision in Massachusetts (Styller v. Lynnfield) determined Nantucket’s current zoning laws don’t clearly allow short-term rentals in residential areas.

In June 2021, in the Styller v. Lynnfield case, the Supreme Judicial Court – the highest appeals court in Massachusetts – ruled that a resident using his home as a short-term rental was “inconsistent with residential neighborhoods.” The SJC was swayed by the need to use zoning to preserve the residential character of Nantucket neighborhoods.

Without action, the tradition of generations of families making or supplementing their incomes by welcoming visitors by renting their homes may be threatened.

“It’s well-known that one of the downsides of short-term rentals (STRs) is that they can reduce the availability of housing for long-term residents, thus driving up both rents and house prices for locals.”

Harvard Business Review

Sustaining tourism and preserving a sense of community.

One goal of any policy developed should be to ensure the continued tradition of vacation rentals for the local tourism industry. What are other goals?

  • Preserving the sense of community by protecting neighborhoods. Most people agree that commercial STR operations do not belong in residential areas.
  • Help the mounting housing crisis. Essential services and local businesses face a staff shortage mainly because there is nowhere for workers to live. Although commercial STRs are not the only factor, they contribute to the problem by converting some homes into purely commercial STRs.

Any article that gets put in front of voters should protect residents while discouraging wealthy off-island corporate investors from turning Nantucket into an islandwide tourist zone, and changing life on the Island so they can make huge profits at the expense of the year-round community.

“Industry analysts predict that Airbnb will increase their inventory by 25% in 2022. […] Converting more inventory to short-term rentals will likely have a net-negative impact on housing availability and affordability.”

National Association of Realtors, 2021 REALTORS Conference & Expo.

An important conversation for our community.

There has been much debate and concern over STRs, but clearly, vacation rentals are an important part of our community and economy.

This is an opportunity to steer forward on a sustainable path with a reasonable and common-sense approach to protect homeowners, neighborhoods, and housing.

We hope everyone stays engaged on this important issue that will shape Nantucket’s future.

Short-term rental white paper