This week in Shelter Island history

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Endangered species? This picture shot in 2003 shows a dock off Shore Road protruding into icy waters.

Docks targeted by Nature Conservancy

Docks threaten the Peconic Estuary’s health and East End towns should take measures to limit, if not prohibit, new dock construction, according to a position paper released by the Peconic Bays Natural Shoreline Committee in 2003. The position paper resulted from meetings between the Nature Conservancy and leaders in East End towns. The report recommended limiting new or expanded docks in areas of economic, environmental and recreational importance; prohibiting new docks in ecologically sensitive areas; encouraging less damaging dock alternatives and limiting the use of CCA-treated materials.
POSTSCRIPT: Sensitive to the problems that docks pose, the Shelter Island Waterways Management Advisory Committee has smiled on proposals for community docks such as the one in Hilo Shores that association members propose expanding. The community dock, even in an expanded version, results in much less intrusion  into West Neck Bay than would exist if each homeowner along the coast proposed a single household dock.

School Board looks at income tax proposal

Twenty years ago, it was Governor Mario Cuomo who asked local boards of education to look at how they would be affected if there was a change from property taxes to income taxes to support schools. The Shelter Island Board of Education concluded that the district would have a negative impact from such a change because of the high percentage of part-time residents, including retirees, who don’t see the Island as their primary residence. If the proposed income tax applied only to those who claimed Shelter Island as their primary residence, the district would see a drastic shortfall in revenues. The problem would be further exacerbated by the fact that many seniors qualified for sizable income tax reductions, the board concluded.
POSTSCRIPT: Twenty years later, it is Mario Cuomo’s son, Andrew, who sits in the governor’s chair and his solution has been to impose a 2-percent tax cap on government agencies, including school boards. Individual agencies can opt out of keeping within the cap by a two-thirds vote of its members, while school boards that want to opt out need to simply present a budget that goes above the cap, but that budget must receive at least 60 percent approval from voters.

Councilmen examine fire district boundaries

A dispute over boundary lines between the Shelter Island Heights and Center Fire districts was headed for arbitration 30 years ago. There was general agreement that the lines were incorrect, affecting about 10 parcels, but no agreement about just where the lines should be drawn. Then Town Councilman Louis Price said the issue should be resolved by a judge. The boundary lines that existed in 1983 had been established in 1931 and the parcels in dispute had become a “no man’s land,” according to the councilman. At issue was the potential loss of about $1,000 in revenue for the Center District and about $3,000 for the Heights District depending on how the issue was resolved.
POSTSCRIPT: Today there is a single fire district headquartered in the Center, but the district owns the Heights Firehouse as well as the firehouse on Ram’s Island.

Construction on beach opens official debate

A routine visit by the town building inspector to a construction site at Hay Beach caused  a storm at Town Hall 40 years ago as it opened the question of what constituted wetlands  and whether bulkheads could be constructed without permits. The bulkhead issue was quickly resolved with a decision that a permit was needed for such construction if it exceeded $750. While that stipulation had been on the books, it hadn’t been enforced. But the issue over identifying wetlands sent the two-person Waterways Committee to meet with a representative of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation who clarified that wetlands are all areas generally covered or intermittently covered with tidal waters and upon which meadow grass and/or cordgrass grows or is capable of growing. The question opened another controversy over whether groins had to be approved. Lawrence Tuthill of Tuthill Dock Builders of Greenport argued that the groins he was creating for his client didn’t extend beyond the man high water mark on the beach and was only intended to protect property from erosion.
POSTSCRIPT: Town code today requires permits for any construction, repair, replacement or reconstruction of any bulkhead, pile, float, building, pier, wharf, jetty, groin, dolphin, dike, dam or other water control device or other structure, any part of which is embedded in or attached to land above or below water, in or on any town waters, town lands under water, foreshore or state or county lands under water within the geographical limits of the town.