(April 21, 2022) Three proposals intended to address the growing concern over short-term vacation rentals are heading to the May 2 town meeting. However, the exact nature of this concern differs significantly, depending on who you ask.
On one side are supporters of a pair of city-sponsored items. One aims to limit the nuisance, from noise to lighting, which would often be created by short-term rentals in residential areas. The other would codify short-term rentals as permitted in all residential zoning districts on the island.
On the other side is the political action group ACK•Now and others, who argue that the real problem is that business development corporations are buying up year-round homes and converting them into permanent homes. rentals. Each side says that by supporting the other’s proposals, the city could come to a standstill.
“The numbers don’t show this investor stuff is real,” Planning Board Vice Chairman Dave Iverson said. “I’m not saying there isn’t an investor-owned boogeyman, I’m just saying the data is not there to back this up.
Iverson refers to Article 43 of the mandate, written as a citizens’ petition by Tobias Glidden, president of ACK•Now. If approved, it would require off-island residents with property in Nantucket to receive a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals in order to use it as a short-term rental. It received a negative recommendation from the Planning Board.
Iverson instead supports the city’s two articles, 39 and 42. The first creates a rental registration system through the Board of Health. The second codifies them as permits in residential zoning. But Glidden fears they are doing more harm than good.
“Section 42 is the biggest zoning change in Nantucket history. It encourages the commodification of Nantucket,” Glidden said. “It encourages commercial extraction from homes where humans live. I think make sure we do something the law is more important for the
Nantucket’s long-term viability, whether it’s getting past 43 or making sure 42 doesn’t pass.
Over the past year, the debate over short-term rentals has turned into a political contest. The articles come just a year after another controversial ACK•Now article, which allegedly created limits on short-term rentals operated by residents and non-residents. This article failed massively at the municipal meeting last June.
This time around, planning director Andrew Vorce thinks the issues with Glidden’s article are the same as last year. He does not accept the argument that short-term rentals take away year-round accommodations from islanders.
He also believes the argument is based on anecdotal evidence rather than fact. Any restrictions on short-term rentals, he said, could hamper an island tradition of renting out property in order to pay the cost of a home in Nantucket.
“What they’re saying is fear,” Vorce said. “Show me a deed that comes from an off-island investor. When? Where? We looked at those areas that work all year round and found minimal changes where there was one person all year round and then there is not one person all year round. Where is the information to back this up? »
He believes there is a movement underway to demonize Section 42 (to codify short-term rentals into city bylaws). “It codifies the process exactly as it currently exists,” he said. “Individual landlords make decisions for their own property, whether or not they have a short-term rental on their property.”
The two city-sponsored articles on the term of office contain positive recommendations from the finance committee or the planning board, with a caveat. If 39 fails, the Planning Council does not recommend that voters pass 42. They see it as an all-or-nothing proposition.
In its review earlier this year, FinCom argued that Glidden’s article could overload the ZBA with a flurry of special permit requests, and that the ZBA’s decisions on new regulations could be subject to scrutiny. an appeal to a higher court.
Board member Matt Fee believes the article still needs to be chopped. For a year, he has been asking the city to create a working group to write its own proposal on short-term rentals. A year later, however, there is still no working group. The select committee only recently reached quorum to discuss the articles. Two of its members, Dawn Hill Holdgate and Melissa Murphy, withdrew from the conversation. They both work in real estate. Article 42 could open the floodgates to more DOS Fee has a bigger concern with Section 42, and the potential he thinks it has to open the floodgates for more short-term rentals. He insists the city can find a reasonable way forward in the short-term rental debate.
“I’m very concerned about going over 42 and codifying that right anywhere on the island,” he said. “It’s full of uncertainties.” Vorce and Iverson, however, argue that Section 42 would only reinforce what has already been decided in two separate ZBA decisions on the properties at 9 West Dover St. and 14 New Mill St.
In these cases, the ZBA upheld the building commissioner’s decision that short-term rentals do not violate city zoning regulations.
These cases were mainly based on the issue of noise. Planning staff, however, found that of the total 557 noise complaints filed with the Nantucket Police Department from May 1 through October 1. As of Jan. 1, 2020, only 66 were of the 2,241 short-term rentals recorded on the island through the state, Vorce said. Of these, only 10 had more than one complaint.
According to a 2021 study by the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Nantucket has just over 2,000 short-term rentals. Of the 1,700 for which data was available, 82% were owned by off-island residents, including 58 entities that own multiple short-term rentals, totaling 157 properties.
The question is what should be done to regulate them, and whether this is done through the Board of Health or the ZBA.
“(The health board) has the most teeth,” Vorce said. “What has the least bite is everything that goes through zoning. The process to enforce it is convoluted. The general regulations are clear and have the strongest mechanism. It cannot be operated as a short term rental if there are any issues. You cannot do this through zoning.
“One of the persistent distortions of the article is that it only deals with nuisance, noise, waste, that sort of thing. It can be expanded to address any of the articles of the law, which talk about property class.
“(Section 43) protects the rights of year-round and seasonal residents to rent,” he said.
“The real goal is to limit short-term commercial rentals. Off-island commercial businesses should not be able to operate rentals in residential neighborhoods. There is a lot of capacity within the municipal government to speed up the permitting process. It is a very simple article.
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