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Nantucket's Short Term Rental War is a 'Neighbor Against Neighbor' pitting!

On Saturday morning, nearly 1000 registered voters swept into four large white tents on a field of play in the elementary school on a 48-sq. mile island off the southern coast of Massachusetts. They were there for the Annual City Meeting, where they voted directly on issues facing the community, as Nantucketers did for centuries. Each chair was taken and latecomers were sitting on the grass or in beach chairs. Children sailed into the sun, and islanders waved cookies and screwed at Town Meeting Moderator Sarah Alger's dry mood. qatar properties

The jovial atmosphere disregarded tensions surrounding one of the agenda items: Article 90, which proposed a considerable reduction in the number and duration of the island's short-term rentals.

The discussion about the proposal quickly became tense. A 33-year-old resident whose family has been the property of Glidden's Island Seafood since 1898, Article 90 sponsor Tobias Glidden delivered a speech in favor of the proposed bylaw. He said that investors who own short-term rentals "extract money from the island just as they extract calamities from the local waters."

Another resident throughout the year, Linda Williams, called Article 90 "rebellious," says her 82 year-old uncle depends on short-term rental income for the maintenance of the island's long-term household. "We may lose the summer home of my family," she said.

On the sides, unable to vote as neither is a full-time resident, there were two men whose power and wealth contributed to fueling the struggle over the proposal, creating a painful community divide.

Petro McCausland, 71, founder of the industrial gas distribution company Airgas, and a long-time summer resident from Nantucket who has an estimated cliff-top compound of approximately $18 million were in one metaphor. He created ACK Now, the group behind Article 90, that short-term rents lead to congestion and noise and prices all year round.

Norman Levenson (77) was also a long-standing resident of Nantucket summer, whose home in Nantucket – including a four-bedroom main house and a one-bedroom guesthouse – is estimated to be about $5 million. The Copley Group owns 13 short-term properties on the island. He founded the Nantucket Economy Protection Alliance, which was funded by the Copley Group. Many local business owners sided with the group of Mr. Levenson and Nantucket Together, another group opposed to Article 90. Mr. Levenson and his allies argued that a reduction in short rent would devastate the tourism-dependent economy and worsen the island's serious scarcity of affordable housing, despite the claims of ACK Now.

The dispute has sparked widespread tensions among local people over access to the island, where almost half of the country is preserved and the astronomical price of the home rises.

"I can't tell you how many years this is the hottest topic on the island," said Mr. Levenson.

Since Mr. McCausland and Mr. Levenson—or about 80 percent of homeowners of the island—can't vote on Nantucket, each of them has launched an aggressive campaign to win support throughout this year. Beginning this autumn, the battle started with local newspapers, telephone calls, lawn signs and social media. The group of Mr. Levenson refused to comment on the contribution made by the Copley Group. Mr. McCausland refused to say how much ACK Now he contributed.

Some Nantucketers didn't like the procedure. Ms. Williams called ACK Now a "smokescreen" focus on affordable housing. She accused Mr. McCausland of elitism at the meeting. "They don't want people, they don't want people...not that's people of their kind."

"I think that's so fascinating to see someone who doesn't live here all year long and who only uses her home a couple of months during the summer, decide what people should do with their homes throughout the year," added Rebecca Chapa, a resident who says she couldn't afford their Nantucket home without Airbnb incomes. She also said she was alarmed by the disagreement in the community that the proposal sowed. "What was disincentive to me was that we are more divided than we are together in our island."

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