We were relieved when the Rockport Select Board wisely voted 4-1 on February 8 to table the draft “Ordinance to Regulate Short-Term Rental Property” and not place it on the June ballot.
This ordinance would hurt our businesses and local economy which rely heavily on summer tourism. It will also hurt the vitality of the Village, where several of us not only operate our businesses, but also live.
We understand that 34 residents recently filed a petition seeking to circumvent the Select Board’s vote and as a result, the Board is now considering a proposal to place a nonbinding vote on short term rental regulation on the June ballot instead. We believe the Select Board got it right the first time and should stay the course.
Many of our businesses struggled last summer and are now facing a second summer of the pandemic. Even after the pandemic finally subsides, it will take at least a few years for our tourism industry to recover from its devastating financial impact. Short term rental regulation could not come at a worse time for us and our employees, as well as our fellow residents who are experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic.
Our local economy largely depends on tourism, which in turn requires different lodging options. Short term rentals offer an economical option for visitors and are especially popular with millennials, an important and growing segment of the tourism industry. They seek out personal “experiences” when they travel, and often prefer staying in homes owned by local residents. They value their hosts’ recommendations on enjoying their stay in Rockport, which bring a lot of business to our restaurants, shops and schooners.
The proposed draft ordinance, if ultimately placed on the ballot in November, will not only hurt tourism and economic development, but also the vitality of the Village. It will severely restrict and regulate homeowner rentals in the very districts where tourists most want to stay: the Downtown District, the Harbor Village District, the Village District, the Residential Coastal District, and the Residential District.
Most tourists want to be a short walk or drive away from the Harbor, restaurants and shops.
Surprisingly, a few of our Town officials resent those “from away” staying in their own neighborhoods. However, most residents welcome tourists and visitors and the activity they bring to our neighborhoods. They prefer fewer “dark” homes not more, which this proposed ordinance would create.
Finally, the homeowners who currently rent their homes – or who may need to in the future – are not “STR investors from away”. We know them. They are our friends; they are our neighbors; they are community volunteers.
Many residents need multiple sources to cover their high property taxes and other housing costs. Renting out their homes during the summer is one of them. Let’s not reverse a century old tradition rooted in our history as a summer colony, that helps our homeowners and businesses to this day.
Peter Ralston & Terri Harper, Ralston Gallery
Sara Jenkins, Nina June
Sarah Greer, Bleecker & Greer
Bonnie Schmidt, Schooner Heron
Jacob Wienges, Seafolk Coffee
David & Thela Gelerman, 47 West, LLC
Steve Watts, Sweet Sensations
Robert L. Morgan, Flatbread Company
Jason Haynes, Rayr