Featured Story

Reporter Letters to the Editor


Rentals? No problem
To the Editor:
Without hearing my complete thoughts, it would be very easy to misconstrue the points I was trying to make in the article that was on the cover of the Reporter (“Floating financial fixes,” September 11), so I would like to set the record straight.

Let me be perfectly clear: I have no problem with rentals! They are a crucial part of our Island’s economy. I have rented out my house for years. Rentals afford residents income, which they spend in local businesses on maintaining their homes such as landscaping, painting, roofing and other improvements.

Seasonal renters bring a huge influx of cash to the Island. They are the ones who eat out in our restaurants, rent kayaks and pay for parking permits. It is a win-win for the Island.

My concerns were after a resident pointed out to me some wording on rental sites such as homeaway.com and airbnb.com. There are houses advertised on the Island that can sleep 16, 18 and 20 people. First, I don’t know of many, if any, houses with septic systems designed to handle that occupancy.

We don’t want our aquifer contaminated or nitrogen leaching into our bays and creeks. While a few may have families of that size, it sounds enticing to group rentals that are strictly prohibited in chapter 75 of our town code. I feel when homes are rented through our licensed real estate brokers, they act as watchdogs and won’t allow group rentals.

Also listed were numerous ads for B&Bs on the Island. Again, I have nothing against B&Bs. I prefer to stay in them when I travel. My concern is that so far this year, not one town B&B license has been applied for or issued. Chapter 133 of town code allows B&Bs but also regulates them, one requirement being an annual license. This is for the safety of the occupants.

When a license is applied for, the Building Department will inspect for things like smoke/CO detectors, proper egress and swimming pool enclosures. Those residents running their home as a B&B need to get a town license.

Again, for the record, I have no problem with lawful rentals and lawful B&Bs.
Councilman, Town of Shelter Island

Island villas
To the Editor:
I should think that someone [architect Peter Cook] with a tabloid-rich life would know about a smear campaign (see story, “Charlie’s Lane application in limbo,” September 11). I am not a neighbor of the Tolkin property, I am not directly impacted and I’ve tried to hold my tongue, but no longer, as I also say goodbye to any chance of selling mooring installations (along with my other enterprising activities).

There are citizens on this Island who grew up with eight people in a house and one bathroom. Here is a request for eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms, plus more in the garage. Let’s understand that this is a commercial application of real estate. It isn’t specifically written in the code that you can’t rent out your house, but this is way more than renting out a house. This is a villa. And a search on the Internet shows villasofdistinction.com that an eight bedroom villa is worth $10,000 per night.

Is the Town Board empowered to deny the application for the exception on size alone? It isn’t possible to determine its future use, if the house will be placed on a website that advertises it as a “villa” even if the owner is in that business. The architect for the project has said the owner knew he would need a special permit for the project.

But looking at the code, does it say that the permit is automatic? The reason for having the trigger of large house sizes is for just such an occasion. Here is a piece of real estate that exists as a buildable lot because of the nearly complete surround of a bulkhead. It is filled land, dredge spoil that developed scrub growth and now is green for the trucked-in topsoil.

Another question arises from Emory Breiner, a member of the planning board, that the town would have a legal problem if they required a long form environmental statement. Does our town attorney agree? I don’t. When the town code for special permits for large houses was written, villasofdistinction.com didn’t exist. I think the board is well within its rights to make this request.

All the factors of scale should be evaluated in such a project. It’s obvious that the use of 8,000 plus square feet of house would generate activities that are not in character with the neighborhood.

Just read the tabloids and you will know what I mean.
Shelter Island

Going gray for green
To the Editor:
I read the editorial “Opening eyes,” September 11) about waste water concerns with amusement.

For over 30 years, I have advocated and worked to get the Heights to redirect the millions of gallons of waste water discharged annually into a federally protected estuary, and to pump it up to Goat Hill for irrigation of the fairways. This concept of using “graywater” is used on literally thousands of golf courses around the United States.

In fact, in many areas you cannot build a new golf course unless you have graywater to irrigate it. Doing it here would not only get the nitrogen-rich sewage effluent out of our waters, but also help to recharge our water table that everyone is so seemingly concerned with. It would transform Goat Hill from a course that is burned out for at least two months each year into a lush, green, high-quality course that would then generate more money for the town and possibly the Heights. Certainly a small percentage of the greens fees could be used to help pay for this simple and proven concept.

However, each time I’ve brought it up, from Hoot Sherman’s and Mal Nevel’s tenure through today, all it gets is lip service. Everyone agrees it’s a great idea, but that’s as far as it ever goes. So, if this paper and our Island’s so-called leadership are really concerned with the adverse effects of waste water on our fragile environment, let’s finally address this issue and make it happen.

There is money available through grants, low interest loans, etc. for projects like this, and even if part of the cost were to come from tax money, it certainly would make a lot more sense on a multitude of levels than spending millions of dollars polluting our Island and waters with 4-posters.

So let’s see how “eye opening” this is to Supervisor Jim Dougherty, the board of directors in the Heights, our other Town Board members, etc. I suggest that we form a committee immediately and start to make this concept a reality. After all, living as we do in one of the most affluent areas in the country, why are we pumping treated sewage into a federally protected estuary like some Third World country?
Shelter Island

Never forget
To the Editor:
My great expectation of our elected officials is that they will always display the integrity and discipline that their oath of office requires. The promise to the people to support the Constitution of the United States should not be taken lightly.

The Constitution and our Bill of Rights are the templates for determining how to create and apply laws in a legal, sensible and evenhanded manner. It maintains our equality and liberty. These are ideals that are beyond compromise.

Because of the wars that I have been to, seeing the Twin Towers fall and my own less than amicable experiences with this Town Board, I am sensitive to any violation of any one’s constitutional rights, over any issue here on the Rock.

Some may feel that protesting the abuse of our constitutional rights is uncalled for. I have learned the hard way that your freedom is enjoyed where you live. Ensuring these freedoms is our Town Board’s foremost obligation. But that is not a priority in Supervisor Dougherty’s administration.
It is, however, a priority for those that we send to war. The very least we can do at home is to speak up whenever our rights are violated.

Thirteen years ago, on September 11th, 2001, 3,000 people were killed by Islamic terrorists. It continues to affect our lives. Our first responders from Shelter Island went to Ground Zero, not knowing what dangers they might be facing. Citizens here knew of folks who were killed that day. Young people joined the Armed Forces because of 9/11/01. One such young man from Shelter Island was killed in action. Because of 9/11, we are now entering a new war on terror.

The Town Board might have taken a moment to reflect on 9/11 at last week’s work session preceding the date. Or perhaps at the board meeting on September 12 last week. But not a word.

Except for my letter in last week’s September 11 issue of the Reporter, there also was no mention of 9/11/01. In fact, the lead front page headline and editorial was about septic systems. An important subject, but still disrespectful.

At least the SIFD displayed a flag to commemorate 9/11. Thank you.

The Constitution, the Bill of Rights, “September 11th, 2001 — Never Forget”: These are matters that matter and should have much greater significance within our town government.
Shelter Island