Dark skies again: Board hears from Manor, Zella and Grucci

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | Shelter Island Town Hall

A new draft of the proposed ‘dark skies’ law was discussed by the Town Board at Tuesday’s work session.

The proposed law would regulate both commercial and residential lighting fixtures. Drafted by Town Attorney Laury Dowd at the request of the Zoning Board of Appeals, the issue has been hotly debated among board members and the public for months.

Last week changes were asked for and Tuesday the board looked at the legislation again, with Councilwoman Christine Lewis noting that some of Councilman Paul Shepherd’s suggestions, such as deleting language setting out the purposes of the law, had been deleted.

Mr. Shepherd said he had not had a chance to study the new draft since it had been given to him only a few hours before the meeting, but he took issue with the enforcement and penalties section of the law, saying they were too severe.

“We’re talking about lighting, not larceny,” Mr. Shepherd said.

Resident Barbara Allen said the new lighting law was too extreme and asked how it would be enforced, which has been a sticking point for those against regulations. “It would be putting something on the books that will be unenforceable,” Ms. Allen said.
She also pointed out, as several people have before, that there have only been four complaints in a decade for excessive lighting.

Resident Karen Kiaer said she’d been afraid to call the police for different reasons and chronicled problems with neighbors. She said that simply because people don’t call doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. Others have noted that many people don’t call the authorities because their complaints have no leverage with no law to back them up.

Mr. Shepherd wondered again if there was a rush to discuss the issue before he had time to fully formulate his thoughts, where other members were on board with the new draft “before you even looked at it.”

“That’s not true,” Mr. Dougherty said. “It’s a very, very rude statement.”

Mr. Shepherd, discussing a section of the draft that defines “”fully shielded” light fixtures termed it confusing.

On the issue of cost to residents to switch to legally sanctioned fixtures, resident Paulette Van Vranken said the cost was not prohibitive .

Later in the discussion, Ms. Lewis addressed Mr. Shepherd by saying compromise “is how we make it through the day in government.”

Mr. Shepherd said he understood, “But I have to be a little careful on what I compromise on.”

Councilman Ed Brown asked Ms. Lewis if she’d “compromise the policy as opposed to the law?”

Ms. Lewis said she wouldn’t.

In other business, the board heard from representatives of Sylvester Manor on the possibility of a zoning overlay. Executive Director Cara Loriz told the board, “Sylvester Manor is treated as a single residential property, which limits what we can do. While zoned residential, we are not a residence.”

The Manor’s mission, which was spelled out by Ms. Loriz and Bennett Konesni, founder and special projects adviser, is to cultivate the land and structures and become a teaching center on the importance of “culture, food and place.”
Plans are to create housing for a staff, space for classes and a county health department-approved kitchen.

The problem is without a special permit approval from the town, there’s no possibility under current zoning for the Manor to achieve its goals, Ms. Loriz and Mr. Konesni said. With residential zoning, the only solution would be to subdivide. And subdivision would produce sprawl, require building in the woods or close to roads.

A zoning overlay would solve the problem, according to the Manor’s representatives. Timing was important, Ms. Loriz said, since “this is a key moment for us” with the manor seeing a healthy increase in its donor base and many programs on tap.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty noted that it seemed the board was in agreement, but wanted to see strategic plans as they developed.
Scott Cooper, an account executive with Fireworks by Grucci, took questions from the board about a permit to have a fireworks show for a private party at Crescent Beach the evening of June 14. The show would be 10 minutes in duration. Police Chief James Read said the road world be closed during the event, and about 10 cars would have to be moved from parking spaces. There would be a police officer on duty three hours before the show and one hour after and the department would charge the applicant for their services. Sound would not be an issue, since the fireworks used have often been set off indoors, Mr. Cooper said. Fire chief John

D’Amato said he had “no issues” with the proposed display.

The board again heard from representatives of Zach Vella on his ambitious expansion of Herrmann’s Castle on Shore Road. The plan has been before the board several times. Tuesday the owner, represented by Guillermo Gomez, Mr. Vella’s architect and Kieran Pape Murphree, a Sag Harbor Attorney, agreed to all conditions the board had asked for, including reducing the number of bathrooms from 14 to nine, cutting square footage on living spaces, changing 81 percent of patio to pervious materials and removing a stone wall and berm from the plans.

It’s not budget season, but the board was already wrestling with schedules. Town computer consultant Ted Jones had written to the board with suggestions to streamline the budgeting process. When Councilman Peter Reich tried to make suggestions, Councilman Brown said Mr. Reich “was usurping” some control from him and Supervisor Dougherty, who are members of the town’s finance committee.

“If you don’t want us on the committee you’ll have a chance to vote against us at” the January organizations meeting, Mr. Brown said. “Let us work as a committee.”

“You still want outside suggestions?” Mr. Reich asked.

Mr. Brown said suggestions were welcome.