Despite some calls to turn a coastal town’s historic lighthouse keeper’s cottage into a more robust short-term rental business, local officials decided this week to keep leasing it to a local teacher.
The town of Castine owns and has been renting out the three-bedroom house at Dyce Head Light for decades. The current lease expired this month. Some factions in the small town wanted to turn the cottage that overlooks Penobscot Bay into a short-term rental that could generate the municipality more money.
But the town rejected the unusual idea. On Tuesday, the Select Board voted to continue renting the house to Tracy Lameyer, a local educator who has been the tenant for the past nine years.
There was no discussion on the topic when the Select Board approved the lease Tuesday, but earlier this month several people said that they felt the town could take better advantage of the real estate asset, potentially renting it out weekly or on single year leases to newcomers in town.
“Take the emotions out of it and make this a business,” said Pat Bishop, a local realtor, at the board’s June 6 meeting.
In an interview earlier this spring, town manager Shawn Blodgett said that despite the group that has wanted to turn the property into a short-term rental, the Select Board isn’t in favor of that and instead included a provision that requires a year-round tenant.
The current lease runs for three years and is $1,200 a month, a steal for waterfront property in the Hancock County town. The monthly rate could go up in subsequent years because it is tied to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index.
A company once offered the town $100,000 for a long-term lease so they could rent it out like an AirBNB, but Select Board member Scott Vogell felt there was more to business than just bringing in cash.
It’s in the town’s best interest to continue renting out to Lameyer, a tried-and-true tenant who was a good ambassador for the property. The lighthouse keeper’s cottage is regularly ogled by sightseers on the adjacent path that leads to the water and often attracts stray tourists into its yard. It takes a special renter to not get fed up and shoo them away, Vogell said.
“The lighthouse is not just a place to rent, it’s a historic site,” he said.
Dyce Head Light, the lighthouse next to the cottage, was first built in 1828 on the north side entrance to Castine Harbor. It’s a modest lighthouse that has been rebuilt several times over the years. The tower is closed to the public but the grounds around it, excluding the cottage’s immediate yard, are open at the west end of Battle Avenue in town.