Friday, March 30, 2007

Should Second-homes be subjected to a Lodging Tax?

On February 15th I commented on a proposed Lodging Tax that would affect second-home rentals on Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod. People who depend upon the rental income of their second homes to partially offset their carrying costs, would have to pass along the tax to their tenants in order to make their numbers work. The rental rates on Martha's Vineyard are already high. We have to ask ourselves, at what point will vacationers start to look elsewhere for better values? For people dreaming of owning a home on Martha's Vineyard and relying upon rental income as part of the purchase equation this tax would deliver a real blow to the process. Here is an update on the debate taken from an editorial at

"Should second-home rentals be taxed? Some things to consider as the debate intensifies over whether to tax summer rentals:

"Yes, it would level the playing field. Latest numbers show a waning occupancy rate for hotels and motels in the summer, surely a result of competition from summer home rentals.

"But what happens if second-home owners dependent on that income find themselves faced with as much as a 9 percent tax increase? For them, it is seeing their property tax almost double. This on top of rising energy costs, insurance coverage increases and a harder time renting their homes due to an oversupply of rentals. At what point will second-home owners decide to put their home on the market because the economics don’t work – especially since they no longer can expect double-digit price appreciation?

"And if those houses go on the market, what impact will that have on all house prices, including those owned by primary-home owners?

"Will municipalities worried about waning occupancy taxes find that scenario better?

"Now add the fact that second-home owners spend more on average than full-time residents – according to some studies, 1.6 times more. If they bail out in the face of rising overhead costs, what other businesses on the Cape – from furniture stores to restaurants – will suffer?

"The reality is that the tax issue transcends tourism and municipal budgets. It is very much a complex macroeconomic issue with many moving parts. Look at it one-dimensionally and we are sure to suffer unintended consequences."

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Edgartown Adopts Strict BOH Regulations in hopes of Protecting Sengekontacket Pond

On March 7th, I commented on this article.
Click here to follow link > Septic Ban Points to Pond Protection

I spoke with Matt Poole the day before the Board of Health meeting regarding certain concerns I had about the proposed new health regulations governing Ocean Heights and Arbutus Park. Matt was actually working on completing the draft for the new regulation when I interrupted him. I told him I felt this could present a real hardship to current property owners who may not be able to afford the cost of possible mandatory waste water upgrades as outlined by the new regulation. Those with vacant lots may no longer be able to afford construction costs on their lots with the added expense of new utility systems. Matt said, in so many words, anyone who owns or purchases property in these areas should be able to afford the hookups. He may be right because there have been some pretty impressive houses going up in these communities lately.

Ultimately, this will be a good thing but I think it will be very interesting to see how the new regulations create a paradigm shift in Ocean Heights and Arbutus Park. I agree installing enhanced systems with the thought of evading the new hookup and as a permanent solution would be ill-advised because I believe the enhanced systems will have to be abandoned eventually. In my opinion enhanced systems are not attractive looking and I think they’re a band-aid for what has been and is increasingly becoming more and more a very serious problem -- the pollution of Sengekontacket Pond.

I think it’s unfortunate that Edgartown does not focus more on existing problems in developed neighborhoods before it allows major new construction projects in equally fragile areas like the Edgartown Great Pond. We need to control and limit density here, not increase it. This Island is already choking; we don’t want it to lose its vital signs.
Click here to follow link > Strict Regulations to Protect Sengekontacket Pond

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The times they are a changing --- on Martha's Vineyard

Septic Ban Points to Pond Protection is the title of a recent article in the Vineyard Gazette that outlines a new regulation affecting vacant land owners in Ocean Heights and Arbutus Park.

Water pollution is the #1 factor that’s going to limit the density and development of the Vineyard in all geographic areas. We’ve known this for years, and you don’t have to be Nostradamus to have seen it coming.

Last year the town of Edgartown implemented a “Wastewater Department Bedroom Regulation” that stated simply (?) will limit the number of bedrooms as follows: “Existing and future lots shall be allowed four (4) bedrooms for the first ten thousand (10,000) square feet of lot area.” The regulation goes on to outline guidelines for additional bedrooms, but I think you get the idea.

Our aquifer is essentially one large interconnected underground lake that supplies the entire Island and our numerous tidal ponds are very fragile. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out we’re at a tipping point. All you have to do during the summer when driving along Island byways and passing any number of these ponds is hang your head out the window of your car and sniff the air. Every year the BOH closes certain ponds at one point during the summer for recorded high fecal levels. That’s scary.

Read this article and keep in mind that buying land is going to require more than just a promise and assumption that you can build what you want on the land, even if the current zoning bylaws say you can. Rules are changing every day and I bet you’re going to see a great many lots in the Ocean Heights area coming on the market at fire sale prices, or being purchased by one buyer, combined, engineered and offered for sale anew at premium prices. I know of one group of lots in that area right now, not in MLS, available for $750,000.

Click here to follow link > Septic Ban Points to Pond Protection

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