Nantucket residents again rejected a proposal to limit short-term rentals

New England Travel

Islanders voted 523-431 against the proposal.

A view of the Brant Point lighthouse on Nantucket. Joseph Prezioso / Getty Images

Nantucket residents once again voted down a proposal to limit short-term rentals on the island during a special town meeting on Tuesday night.

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Residents voted 523-431 against Article 1, a general bylaw proposal that would end future corporate-owned short-term rentals (STRs), discourage commercial-only STRs by limiting high-season contracts, limit future STR ownership to one property per owner, and allow nine rental agreements during high season (July and August) for homeowners who currently rent — or are “grandfathered”— and four for those who do not. There would be no limits during the offseason.

The residents took no action on Article 2, a zoning bylaw amendment that would allow STRs in all zoning districts on Nantucket, because it was linked to Article 1.

The proposals were created by a short-term rental working group formed last year to study the situation and make a recommendation during Tuesday’s meeting. Members of the group urged residents to vote yes on the articles in a letter to the editor in the Nantucket Current prior to the vote.

On an island facing a housing crisis and where 80 to 85% of the lodging nights are provided by short-term rentals, residents have been divided over the issue of short-term rentals for years. Residents voted down previous proposed restrictions in May, as well as in 2022 and 2021.

Jim Sulzer, a member of the short-term rental workgroup, spoke before the vote.

“The regulations in Article 1 are a direct reflection of the values that guided our short-term rental workgroup,” Sulzer said. “From respecting the tradition of home rental on Nantucket to reducing the churn of frequent summer turnovers. We’ve done our very best to find a sustainable balance, supporting existing property rights while trying to preserve the quality of life on our island. We all recognize that the integrity of neighborhoods is threatened by investor-only STRs and corporate STRs. Thus, Article 1 bans new corporate STRs — they are at less than 4% right now — and it discourages investor-only STRs by limiting new STRs to just four contracts in high season. We think that these Article 1 regulations are a big step in the right direction and are very important.”

David Iverson, a planning board member, said “a no vote means nothing changes. A no vote means we’ll have far less regulations to regulate this business. What that means is people can have as many STRs as they want.”

But several residents expressed concerns during the meeting.

Some expressed concern over being limited from renting their property in the future simply because they haven’t rented it in the past.

“I was disappointed that Article 1 as brought forward essentially grandfathered in the existing corporate-owned residential STRs that are in residential neighborhoods, thereby sort of rewarding those corporations who have started to create this problem for us by allowing them to keep doing this in perpetuity while preventing others to do so,” said Michael Kopko, a former Select Board member. “So I think at the end of the day, this article as written is too onerous and byzantine on property owners and doesn’t do enough to eliminate the possibility of corporate ownership. So I urge you to vote this down and, obviously, Article 2 down and let’s come back with something really simple.”

“We did not feel legally we could ban the corporate STRs that are here now,” said Sulzer. “We didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. But it is less than 4 percent of all STRS so let’s keep that in mind and let’s realize that it will not grow.”

“I read Article 1 thoroughly and still found it very confusing,” said a resident who has been renting her home every summer for 35 years.

She said she didn’t see how it would keep commercial, investment-only STRs away and recommended going “back to the drawing board.”