Beach Town Tries To Put Limits On People Renting Their Home

On Tuesday, residents will gather to vote on a hotly contested issue – the legalization of short-term rentals on their idyllic island off the coast of Massachusetts.

The debate over whether homeowners should be allowed to rent out their properties on popular vacation rental websites such as Airbnb has been a contentious one for years. But it came to a head in March when Land Court Judge Michael Vhay ruled that using a home primarily as a short-term rental was not permitted in areas zoned for residential use.

This decision opened up a legal gray area, prompting residents to take matters into their own hands and vote on Article 59 – a proposal that would legalize short-term rentals on Nantucket.

Leading the charge against short-term rentals is Ack Now, a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving the quaint, sea-town vibes of Nantucket. Founder Peter McCausland told the Boston Globe that allowing short-term rentals to continue would “gut the community” and turn it into a “constant turnover” of boutique hotels.

Another group, Put Nantucket Neighborhoods First, also opposes Article 59, claiming that it would primarily benefit off-island investors and commercial interests. In their frequently asked questions section on their website, the group states that short-term rentals drive up housing prices, making it unattainable for the majority of residents who have seen a 40 percent increase in population over the last decade.

Nantucket has long been a haven for the wealthy and famous, with celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian, Ben Stiller, James Franco, Drew Barrymore, and even President Joe Biden frequently spotted on the island’s shores. The average home on Nantucket sells for $2.6 million, making it a popular destination for those seeking an exclusive and luxurious retreat.

Short-term rentals on Nantucket come in all shapes and sizes, with some offering extensive amenities such as pools, tennis courts, and private beaches. Prices range from $159 a night for a single bedroom to $10,000 a night for a luxurious nine-bedroom estate. Despite the high prices, short-term rentals have been a vital part of Nantucket’s economy, providing as much as 85 percent of lodging needs on any given night.

Those in favor of preserving short-term rentals argue that they are essential for the island’s economy, providing much-needed income to business owners who rely on tourist dollars. Kathy Baird, cofounder of Nantucket Together, stated that short-term rentals are often the only affordable option for tourists, with Nantucket’s 800 existing hotel rooms unable to accommodate the island’s influx of visitors.

Eithne Yelle, owner of Nantucket Catering Company, expressed concern that a ban on short-term rentals would harm her business of hosting weddings at rental properties. She added that couples are already hesitant to book weddings on the island in 2025 due to uncertainty surrounding the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.

Realtor Jenny Apthorp Paradis, whose family has owned and operated inns on Nantucket for decades, believes that short-term rentals are crucial for the island’s economy and tradition. In a Facebook post, she wrote, “We must adopt article 59 to simply codify our tradition of being a summer resort for over a century, and then make the changes we want through simple majority articles at town meeting.”

Others, such as Penny Dey, a local realtor, argue that restricting short-term rentals would go against the cornerstone of property rights in the US – the right to do what one wants with their property. Dey also dismissed the idea that limiting short-term rentals would bring back the “good old days” of Nantucket and create affordable housing, stating that it would only harm the local economy.

Charlene Nogueira, owner of Nantucket Cleaning Services, fears that heavily restricting short-term rentals would not only damage her business but also impede her right to use her property for income in the future. She told the Globe, “It’s my right to do whatever I want with my house.”

The decision on whether to legalize short-term rentals on Nantucket is ultimately up to the residents. If passed, Article 59 would need a two-thirds majority to take effect and could have a significant impact on the island’s economy and small-town charm. Residents are encouraged to voice their opinions and exercise their right to vote at the annual meeting on Tuesday.


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