April 6, 2006

Nantucket votes to ban big chains from downtown

By Belinda Yu

BOSTON (Reuters) - Residents of the wealthy vacation island
of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts have voted to ban
big chain stores from its quaint streets to protect their
unique character.

Several hundred island residents decided at a town meeting
on Monday to ban any retail or food establishment with
standardized decor, menus, trademarks, uniforms, merchandise
and color schemes. The ban does not include grocery stores or
gas stations and must be approved by the state Attorney
General's office.

"As the country starts to look more and more like
everywhere else, this was about protecting our uniqueness as a
tourist destination," said Wendy Hudson, a Nantucket resident
and independent book seller who proposed the ban.

Nantucket, a picturesque former whaling village which
figured in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick," boasts some of
America's most expensive vacation homes. It became the latest
in a line of U.S. beachfront communities to ban chain stores.

Carmel-by-the-Sea in California was the first to do so in
1983. Others include Ogunquit on Maine's southern coast known
for its beaches and long line of outlet malls a short distance
from downtown.

Rob Ranney, a Nantucket resident and real estate appraiser,
said high rents have kept chain stores off the island up to

"There haven't been any chain stores on the island other
than the grocery stores, and that's just been an unwritten
rule," said Ranney. "This ban is just making sure that it
doesn't happen."

In 1997, a vacant Nantucket lot sold for $257,000. That
same lot is now worth $1.9 million, according to H. Flint
Ranney, owner of Denby Real Estate.

As property values have soared, some local residents have
been squeezed out. A March 2006 report by ForeclosuresMass
shows that from March 2005 to February 2006, foreclosures were
up 50 percent from the previous year.