Aquinnah officials are considering how to deal with the possible reopening of short-term rentals, following Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision on whether to begin phase two of the back-to-work plan.
Baker most recently said that phase two, which is scheduled to start no sooner than June 8, will allow for retail, restaurants, lodging, and personal services such as nail salons or spas to reopen, with limited capacity and additional health precautions in place.
Depending on Baker’s decision on June 8, Aquinnah officials wondered at a Wednesday selectmen’s meeting whether it would be prudent to have their own rules in place for short-term rentals and lodging.
Town administrator Jeff Madison said he has gotten “about a dozen” inquiries regarding short-term rentals, but said those regulations are under the purview of the board of health, not the selectmen. “We really don’t have a dog in this fight,” Madison said.
Apart from Airbnb and individual home rentals, there are several inns in Aquinnah that are very popular during the summer, such as the Outermost Inn and the Duck Inn.
So far, board of health chair Jim Glavin said, nothing has changed since the original regulations were put in place back in March.
“He does have an order that short-term rentals less than 31 days are simply not allowed in the commonwealth,” Glavin said. “If you put your finger to the wind, it sounds like that may be relaxed in the near future.”
Glavin said that although it is the board of health’s prerogative to create town-mandated restrictions on short-term rentals, he doesn’t see the point of implementing any restrictions if all the other Island towns aren’t onboard.
“The down-Island towns have a lot of pressure being put on them by the hotel industry; I don’t see them implementing their own regulations,” Glavin said. Board of selectmen chair Juli Vanderhoop said there should be plans in place for if Baker decides to loosen restrictions, and plans for if he keeps all the restrictions in place.
“Right now, with the 14-day quarantine order, it’s hard to foresee what we are going to do with someone who shows up at the town hall with a rental lease, looking to get a beach permit for the season,” Vanderhoop said. “We just don’t know what is going to happen. Whether the governor says no or yes, we need to be ready.”