Letter: In Support Of ACK Now’s Short-Term Rental Proposal

Written By: Howard B. Dickler, MD

To the Editor:

Congratulations to the Select Board for bringing into full view the discussion of the warrant articles related to short-term rentals. It seemed from the discussion that there was a consensus on two major points: that island residents should be allowed unrestricted short-term rentals of their primary residential property; and that rentals by commercial entities should not be permitted in residential zones. All would also agree that the Citizens Article 43 proposes a means of regulating short-term rentals and the Planning Board Articles do not.

Concerns were raised over the Planning Board Article 42’s approach to immediately legalize all short-term rentals across the island right away, and use the registry proposed in Article 39 to regulate them later. The rationale offered for this haste is that a court may find short-term rentals to be a non-allowable use in a residential zone on Nantucket in the future, making them illegal. This, some claim, would then shut them down and hurt our economy. This is a scare tactic to convince voters to support this article. But it is a phantom scenario that would not occur.

Such a decision would be appealed and tied up in court for quite a long time, enabling the island to meanwhile make them legal. It is also likely the court could rule that short-term rentals are a customary accessory use consistent with Nantucket’s long-time tradition of short-term rentals by homeowners in residential neighborhoods. Essentially what the Citizens Article 43 would do.

Opponents of Article 42 see a different– and more real — danger. Once you make short-term rentals a right for all property island-wide, regardless of zoning, there is no guarantee that regulatory bylaws would ever be passed. And that kind of unrestricted zoning would make it very difficult to pass any meaningful regulations at all. It runs against human nature to give back something you have been given, even if it is in the community’s best interest. Just think about the opposition we have seen to regulation and consider how it would be affected by investors and corporations with big, big money. VRBO has already weighed in, and that is just the beginning.

Our critical housing stock for year-rounders is at stake. Article 42 must be rejected because it leaves the island open and defenseless and effectively eliminates future regulation of short-term rentals through zoning. This will encourage the expansion of commercial short-term rental enterprises throughout the island.

Citizens Article 43 proposes a sensible approach to both making short-term rentals legal and regulating them simultaneously. Pairing legalization with regulation is the only way for the island to control its destiny.

Howard B. Dickler MD

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