Irrigation moratorium in effect for eight months

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | “I feel like a lone voice in this room,” Robert Grosbard told attendees Friday afternoon as he made a plea for the Town Board to enact the ban on automatic underground irrigation systems in September.

The Shelter Island Town Board Friday afternoon voted  to place an eight-month moratorium on implementation of a law banning underground irrigation systems. The vote was unanimous to stop the law from taking effect September 1.

Between now and the May 1, 2014, deadline, the board was asked by attendees to determine if the Island’s water supply is truly at risk and identify technology now in use by companies selling the irrigation systems.
There was one impassioned spokesman and a couple of other backers begging the town to let the law stand and the ban go into effect.

“I feel like a lone voice in this room,” Robert Grosbard said. “I’m more concerned about the quality of life [and] we need to save our water,” he said. He told the packed Town Board room with several people relegated to the hallway, that he isn’t concerned about green lawns but about people having water in their homes.

Mark Mobius joined him in arguing it’s a “no-brainer” since water is a “limited resource.”

But others argued that weekenders had no way to keep their lawns green if they were forced to abandon use of the automatic irrigation systems.

“Take a real look,” Herb Stern asked the Town Board. He urged the town to hire someone with “no dog in the hunt” to do a study determining whether or not there’s a problem requiring banning the irrigation systems and whether the technology has changed for such systems.

Without a study to back up any decision to ban the irrigation systems, the board would be “taking my property without paying for it,” he said.

Lion Zust said she’s very concerned about the aquifer, but believed it to be stable and said the town should be looking at the quality, not the quantity of water. The problem is not with irrigation systems, but the design of some, she said.

Look at the exemptions, Warren Baker said. He pointed out that golf courses would be allowed to water the greens at the height of the day’s heat while most residents have their systems set to water only at night.

There were worries about water trucks lining the roads on Shelter Island. Others asked that the proposed eight-month moratorium be extended for one year, while some suggested modifying the law since not all areas are threatened by a water shortage. And one person suggested a pipeline from the North Fork to carry water to Shelter Island just as electrical lines underwater provide power here.

In other Town Board actions:

• Delayed action on the application for St. Gabriel’s Retreat Center for repairs on the bulkhead pending further information that the Waterways Management Advisory Council had said last week was insufficient. Matt Sherman promised to provide more specific measurements and precise plans and Town Board members agreed to try to push the application forward quickly once those plans are in place.

• Approved mooring applications from Andrew Bellas of 8 Tuthill Drive for a Riparian mooring and from Peter Reich of 3 Charlie’s Lane for a mooring in West Neck Harbor.

• Appointed Walter Richards to the Communities That Care board; Dan Halsted to the West Neck Water District Board of Directors; Howard Johansen and Paulette Van Vranken to the Conservation Advisory Council; and Peter McCracken to the Assessment Board of Review.