Push to limit short-term rentals shakes up Nantucket for 2nd season

Kelly Garrity – Boston.com correspondent

April 28, 2022 4:40 p.m.

A year after residents overwhelmingly voted against restrictions on short-term rentals, a move to make it happen is on the register at Nantucket Annual Municipal Meetingscheduled for Monday.

Last year’s initiative, which lost more than 2-1, pitted the rich against the very wealthy, with both sides touting their support for year-round residents, who both rely on affordable housing options and on tourist business.

Last year, the advocacy group known as ACK Now put forward the proposal, which sought to ban non-residents of the island from rent their property more than 45 nights per year or for less than a week at a time, saying such a law would prevent investors from recovering much of the city’s already dwindling housing stock.

“With each passing day, more and more investors are buying homes to turn them into short-term rental businesses,” Tobias Glidden, executive chairman of ACK Now, wrote last year. in a letter posted on the organization’s website. “We have to do something to stop Nantucket from turning into a Disneyland where no one lives (or wants to live).”

This year, ACK Now proposed similar legislation. Known as Section 43, the measure would prohibit non-residents from using their property for short-term rentals unless they receive a special permit from the Zoning Board. If passed, the law will take effect next year, but will not apply to full-time residents or rentals of 30 days or more.

Proponents of the legislation say it will help alleviate the housing crisis in Nantucket. “This will help stabilize home prices for year-round residents, such as teachers, firefighters and merchants, to buy or rent homes,” The ACK Now website says.

But opponents, including those from the political action group Nantucket Together, say it will instead curb the tourism these residents rely on. “Nantucket now has a new revenue stream ($8 million per year) paid for by visitors who enjoy staying at our homes on the island,” The Nantucket Together website states“and 80-85% of accommodation on the island is provided by short-term rentals, as they have been for over a century.”

In addition to Article 43, two other proposals regarding short-term rentals – Article 39 and Article 42 – will be discussed at the meeting. The least controversial of the lot, Section 39, would require tenants to get Health Board approval before listing their home on sites like Airbnb and VRBO. In February, the Nantucket Planning Board voted in favor of this section, which also aims to address noise and parking issues associated with short-term rentals.

Section 42, like section 43, hopes to respond to a recent state court decision, Styller v. Lynnfield, who concluded that zoning regulations did not protect short-term rentals in residential areas. Section 42 seeks to amend one of Nantucket’s bylaws to make short-term rentals legal unless explicitly prohibited by the Planning Board.

It’s clear that housing affordability is a major issue on the island, where the median listing price hit $3.5 million last month, according to realtor.com. With limited rental inventory and short-term rentals routinely costing tens of thousands of dollars a month during the summer season, those looking for affordable options are increasingly left out of the market. But how to solve the problem remains to be determined.

“Nantucket will regulate short-term rentals,” Glidden told the Globe after counting the results of last year’s vote. “It’s not a question of if, but when.”

On Monday, islanders will have a chance to decide if the time is right.

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