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Six Martha's Vineyard planning boards convene to address short-term rentals

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Ben Robinson, chair of the Tisbury Planning Board, moderated a discussion of short-term rentals among members of the six Martha's Vineyard planning boards. (Detail of a screenshot of the larger meeting.)

Members of the six Martha’s Vineyard town planning boards met over Zoom on Wednesday to consider island-wide action on short-term rentals.

Housing insecurity on the island is getting worse, said Tisbury Planning Board chair Ben Robinson, who moderated the discussion.

“We are hemorrhaging housing stock to a short-term rental industry that is not just made up of the locals that have traditionally rented out homes in the summer, but is more and more becoming investment groups, larger corporations,” he said.

Other participants in the meeting said home rentals are essential to supplement many residents’ income. Rentals also provide rooms, in lieu of large hotels, to support the island’s tourist economy.

Eliminating those rooms is not the goal, said Laura Silber, who has been studying the issue for West Tisbury.

“It's a question of how to cap, or control, or manage, the amount that we have, so that the ratio of year-round homes — or year-round residents — to seasonal residents is a functional ratio, because right now, our ratio is wildly off,” she said.

Silber has been reviewing regulatory tools used in resort communities around the country, including Provincetown and Lake Tahoe.

Robinson asked the planning boards to generate questions by mid-December that could be used to commission an all-island study.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.