New Englanders—Well Most of Them—Want Tourism Back

Image Credit: iStock, kurmyshov

Sign up for smart news, insights, and analysis on the biggest financial stories of the day.

A year after shutting its scenic tourist economies down for the pandemic, New England is rumbling back. In Vermont, the state is fractions of a percentage point away from lifting all pandemic restrictions when it hits an 80% first vaccination rate.

Maine is hammering out a side deal with the Canadian province of New Brunswick to bring back travel between the two. But then there is scenic Massachusetts: on the paradise island Nantucket, a super rich part-time resident is trying to keep visitors out of the famed vacation destination. It’s blown into a full on neighbour-vs-neighbour affair.

Septuagenarian Standoff

Peter McCausland, a 71-year old gas executive whose summer home in Nantucket is worth $18 million, put forward a proposal at the town’s annual meeting last weekend to curb how many visitors can access the island’s bucolic paradise:

  • McCausland wants to introduce a seven-day minimum for most short-term rentals, and bar full time residents from renting out their properties for more than 90-days of short term rentals each year.
  • This would slash the income residents could make renting to vacationers. For many, it’s an essential income source in a destination town where home prices grew 95% to $2.5 million in 2020 from $1.3 million in 2010.

McCausland bankrolled a campaign in favor of the measure himself, using his massive wealth (he made $1 billion from the sale of his company Airgas in 2016). Residents were bombarded with flyers and literature. But then a challenger emerged. Another super rich summer resident, 77-year old property developer Norman Levenson, came out against the proposal and bankrolled his own campaign.

Take the L: The proposal lost by a resounding 625 to 297 margin, which one would think ended the issue. To McCausland, it was just the starting piston. “This is just an opportunity to come back next year,” he said, pledging to bankroll another campaign to curtail rentals.

Great Irony: Two people who didn’t vote on the motion were McCausland and Levenson themselves. That’s because they aren’t full-time residents. “I think it’s so fascinating that someone who doesn’t live here year-round, who only uses their house for a few months in the summer, could decide what the year-round people should be doing with their homes,” said year-round resident Rebecca Chapa.

Read more from the Wall Street Journal.