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Town Board looks to codify nitrogen-reducing septic systems

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

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

At its Tuesday work session, the Town Board discussed finding a formula to be used when extensive renovations on a house would require the homeowner to have a nitrogen-reducing septic system installed.

A suggestion from the Water Quality Improvement Advisory Board to require nitrogen reducing systems for all new construction, or to those where renovations result in changing 50 percent or more of existing structures, has been before the board for some time. Town Board members seem eager to codify the new construction aspect of the idea, but were unsure how to act on the 50 percent renovations.

Building Inspector Chris Tehan told the board that the 50 percent figure is not as simple as it seems, with many building requirements venturing into arcane definitions. Since the amount of new living space is not easily defined and determining, for example, where new construction “touches” old construction, the department would have difficulty rendering a judgment on percentages.

The board came to a consensus to use Suffolk County Department of Health Services guidelines on what renovations would require the new septic systems.

There was debate on separating the two issues, with Councilman Jim Colligan pushing to get the new construction requirement on the books and then waiting to decide on a renovations law. But Councilman Albert Dickson said there should be no delays, and the board should act on one piece of legislation.

Supervisor Gary Gerth said he was concerned that people of modest means would be forced to install a pricey new septic system if they were expanding their homes to take in an elderly relative, for example, or with the birth of a child. He suggested some kind of means testing for homeowner’s grants, and the board was in agreement.

In other business: Bayman Tom Field asked the board to consider writing a Shelter Island residency requirement into the town code for permits to harvest shellfish in Island waters.

Mr. Field said it was unfair that non-resident fishermen were coming to the Island and taking places long favored by Island baymen.

The board agreed to discuss the matter further after a meting between Police Chief Jim Read, Mr. Field and Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. came up with suggestions.
Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar asked if the board was interested in raising the beach parking rates for 2018. Ms. Ogar reported that last year the rates were $25 for a day pass, $50 for a week, $95 for a month and $230 for a seasonal pass.

Ms. Ogar reported that even after the town raised the rates last summer, it took in $5,000 less than the summer of 2016. She speculated that the rise of short-term-rental arrangements might have something to do with the drop, with many visitors staying for only a short time, and less people coming for a month or more. Councilman Paul Shepherd noted that bad weather last summer could have kept visitors away.

The board agreed not to change the parking rates.

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