The Waterways Management Advisory Council voted on three applications under consideration Monday night — voting unanimously to reject one, turning thumbs up with three members abstaining on another, and voting in favor of a third with one member recusing himself.
But while the results will be reported to the Town Board for its final decision, the WMAC erred in allowing an absent member to cast a vote via telephone.
Marc Wein was unable to return to Shelter Island in time for the Monday night meeting and under the state’s Open Meetings Law, he was allowed to call in, but not to be counted as part of a quorum or allowed to vote.
Without his vote, the decisions would still stand. But only if an absent member is connected via a visual program such as Skype can he or she cast a vote. The law requires a meeting at which a member or members participate via video conferencing to be advertised in advance with information on where those on video are participating. Plus, the public is free to go to any location from which a committee member is video conferencing to observe the proceedings. That’s the word from Robert Freeman, executive director of the Committee on Open Government.
Ironically, it was a request from Mr. Wein, who is also a member of the Deer and Tick Committee, that prompted improvements to the town’s telephone conferencing.
Mr. Wein joined his colleagues in unanimously rejecting an application from Derek and Jennifer Van Zandt of 22 Tuthill Drive to construct a 4-foot by 100-foot fixed dock with a 3-foot by 16-foot seasonal ramp to a 6-foot by 30-foot floating dock. The Van Zandts also asked to install two mooring pilings and to construct a 3-foot wide cross-over stairway to the beach.
At issue for the members was that this would result in a 130-foot dock that marine contractor John Costello had said would afford the ability to tie a sailboat to the dock, rather than using a dinghy to access it.
But they feared that approving it would set a precedent for others to request longer docks for similar reasons.
Mr. Costello had previously told the Town Board he wanted to provide an alternative plan. That requires a new hearing that has been set for the end of March. But in voting against the existing application, the members said they wanted the Town Board to understand that if they eventually do approve a longer dock, they need to be able to cite reasons that would distinguish the decision so as not to set a precedent.
An application from Camp Quinipet for changes to its beach area got the nod, with James Eklund recusing himself because Reich Eklund has been involved in the process of bidding and overseeing the project. Quinipet Director Greg Nissen wants to remove and replace four existing stairways to the beach, replace 2,360 feet of bulkhead, and add 18 feet of bulkhead return on the southwest end. Void areas landward would be filled with clean trucked-in soil and disturbed areas would revegetated.
While the old bulkhead has been essentially washed away, the bulkhead still represents rebuilding, not a new structure.
“We just had a ton of washout” in the nor’easter that followed Superstorm Sandy, Mr. Nissen said.
With three members abstaining, the other three recommended the Town Board approve an application from the Biancanielle 2012 House Trust to install 115 feet of 3- to 4-ton single rock armoring at the base of an existing bulkhead at property at 84 Gardiners Bay Drive.