This week in Shelter Island history

JULIE LANE PHOTO | St. Gabe’s making news then and now.

Town formally okays St. Gabe’s deal

The Town Board approved the acquisition of the upper eight acres of land at St. Gabriel’s Spiritual Center for Youth giving the Passionist Fathers a financial boost and ensuring the preservation of the land. The land, the site of the annual Fire Department chicken barbecue, fell under Suffolk County’s land preservation program enabling the town and county to split the cost of the acquisition. The land was valued at $950,000. It was agreed at the time that should the church ever sell its remaining 35 to 40 acres, the town would be given the first option to buy.

POSTSCRIPT: The town is in the process of forming a subcommittee to consider whether special zoning should apply to such property owned by institutions to enable adding structures on the property without having to subdivide the property. The St. Gabe’s property, along with a few other properties, including Mashomack Preserve and Sylvester Manor, would likely be covered by such zoning.

LILCO has tax shortfall

Long Island Lighting Company, which preceeded Long Island Power Authority, had some explaining and negotiating to do back in 1992 after the taxes it paid to Shelter Island fell far below what the utility had promised when it negotiated an agreement to allow an electric transmission line to be buried underground along Island roads. The 4.2-mile power line would net the Island between $200,000 and $275,000 annually, LILCO negotiators said when trying to gain permission for the line. But LILCO’s payment was only $74,000 after the line was installed. That sent then Supervisor Hoot Sherman in pursuit of utility representatives to work out a special franchise fee to make up for the tax shortfall.

POSTSCRIPT: That same line is proving to be a problem currently blocking efforts to dredge just west of South Ferry slips where LIPA officials have said they feared such action could damage the transmission line. South Ferry president Cliff Clark said he and his father had a verbal agreement with LILCO about future dredging and he’s trying to work out an arrangement with LIPA that would enable the dredging to proceed.

County planner said Island water supply adequate

Dr. Lee Koppelman, then director of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, visited Shelter Island back in 1982, pronouncing the town’s water supply “absolutely adequate.” At the same time, he advised town officials it was important to protect the quality of drinking water. He attributed the  favorable fresh water situation to maintaining the town’s two-acre zoning, a policy he had recommended 12 years earlier, based on a study that showed the aquifer could support a year-round population of about 8,000 people. The town aquifer is replenished only by rain water and recharge filtering down from leeching pools, according to Paul Mobius, who was then chairman of the town’s Republican Club that sponsored Dr. Koppelman’s visit to the Island. Dr. Koppelman praised town leaders for their foresight in pushing through tough zoning policies and open space programs that have helped to keep the aquifer adequate for Island needs.

POSTSCRIPT: Island town leaders continue to be diligent about monitoring both the quantity and quality of water and, from time to time, impose water use restrictions, particularly in dry summer months when the population is much higher. In September 2013, a new restriction is set to go into effect, disallowing the use of automatic underground irrigation systems that lack a cistern fed by off-island water.

State offers young trees to reforest

Island residents with soil stabilization or erosion problems became eligible to receive planting stocks of seedling trees and shrubs, thanks to a program implemented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. To qualify for the tree seedlings, property owners needed a minimum one-acre lot. Otherwise, they could receive shrubs. In all cases, the plantings weren’t for ornamental use, but solely designed to control erosion and stabilize land banks and re-vegetate open spaces to improve wildlife habitat.

POSTSCRIPT: Early last spring, members of the Group for the East End joined the Garden Club of Shelter Island in planting at Taylor’s Island where the intent was to use natural beach grasses and other native vegetation to shore up the newly constructed seawall. A check back at Taylor’s Island after Sandy battered the area showed the value of the plants that did, indeed, help to protect the tiny island that juts into Coecles Harbor.