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Whose beach is it anyway? Board discusses issue of private parties on public land

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO The Town Board at Tuesday’s work session. From left, Councilmen Albert Dickson and Paul Shepherd and Supervisor Gary Gerth. Not shown, Councilman Jim Colligan and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO The Town Board at Tuesday’s work session. From left, Councilmen Albert Dickson and Paul Shepherd and Supervisor Gary Gerth. Not shown, Councilman Jim Colligan and Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams.

The Town Board discussed at its Tuesday work session the issue of applications for outdoor assemblies and parties on public property during the summer months.

Police Chief Jim Read came to board to discuss an application submitted by Romanos Fessas for a 115-person clambake at the end of Shell Beach on an evening the weekend before the Fourth of July.

Chief Read noted that the applicant, who wants to hold a pre-wedding party at the beach, have “ticked all the boxes,” including small music speakers, no fireworks, guests bused to and from the site and portable toilets provided.

But the chief asked the board for guidance, noting that on one hand, “we don’t want to limit the public’s access to public places,” but there were other considerations such as large gatherings on town-owned beaches disturbing other residents.

Councilman Jim Colligan had concerns about holding a party on Shell Beach, which he described as “unique” because there is only one narrow exit and entrance. He also asked what would happen to people already on the beach when the guests arrived to set up the event — would they be asked to move or leave?

Commissioner of Public Works Jay Card Jr. said he and his wife had a wedding celebration for more than 100 people in July 1990 and the party “went off without a hitch.”

Councilman Colligan responded by saying, “Times have changed.”

Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams was concerned about the timing falling so close to the Fourth of July, when the beach will be used by many residents, and Councilman Paul Shepherd voiced concerns about setting precedents for large events on a public beach between Memorial and Labor days.

Supervisor Gary Gerth suggested the issue be tabled until next week and a committee of town officials get together to come up with a response to the application, plus a review of the town code on outdoor assemblies.

In other business: Mr. Colligan presented a mission statement and goals for a newly formed “Capital Planning/Grants Committee.”

The committee will be charged with developing and maintaining “a long-range strategic plan to manage, monitor and maintain or replace town assets that considers priorities, costs and funding resources.”

The goals include developing a multi-year capital plan; meet the needs for “innovative/advanced” waste water treatment systems at town facilities; work with the Community Housing Board and find funding for affordable housing; purchase a generator for the Medical Center: and find possible “funding streams for all plans.”

The board agreed to pass a resolution at the regular meeting January 19 accepting a “Seagrass Management Plan.” (The Reporter will have a story on the issue next week.)

At the end of the meeting when residents can question the board or provide information, Jean Lawless said she wanted to direct Islanders’ attentions to a piece of property that had been “decimated” by trees being topped or cut down in Hay Beach.

Ms. Lawless said the property is south of Menhaden Lane and owned by Suffolk County. More than 100 trees, mostly cedar but also cherry and locust, have been cut.

Anyone looking at the scene will be “horrified,” Ms. Lawless said. She has reported the finding to the Shelter Island Police and Highway departments, the county and the New York State Department of Environmental Protection.

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