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Briefly, what happened in 2014?

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | The residence on Charlie's Lane that spurred an ongoing debate on house sizes in 2014.

AMBROSE CLANCY PHOTO | The residence on Charlie’s Lane that spurred an ongoing debate on house sizes in 2014.

In addition to major and ongoing issues this year, there were a number of other stories that consumed attention of town officials and residents.

House sizes
Following an uproar from some residents concerned about the impact of large scale houses some feared would adversely affect the environment, the Town Board has begun a discussion about what if any steps should be taken to limit building sizes.

The discussion was prompted by Brad Tolkin’s application to build a large house on Charlie’s Lane to which some neighbors objected. Mr. Tolkin amended his proposal to mitigate a number of issues and ultimately won approval for the project the Town Board said would actually have less adverse impact on the environment than an existing smaller structure on the property.

But the prolonged debate prompted Town Board members to revisit codes with an eye to determining if changes are needed.

What they realized was that while Mr. Tolkin agreed to several mitigating factors, under existing code, there was little in the way of changes that could have been mandated.

With concerns about water quantity and quality, truck traffic and other factors, Town Board members can be expected to wrestle with what if any changes should be codified for future development.

“What is it we’re really trying to accomplish?” was Councilman Paul Shepherd’s question.
Among considerations being discussed are overall square footage of a structure and total lot coverage. Existing code is silent about house sizes unless a structure exceeds 6,000 square feet, forcing an applicant to obtain a special permit.
It’s likely the discussion will last well into 2015.

School days
This was the year that saw the departure of Michael Hynes after three years as superintendent of the school district. When he came to Shelter Island in the summer of 2011, it was his goal to be a long-time superintendent, but a number of factors — family needs and increased visibility resulting from becoming one of the leaders of the movement to improve educational standards through means other than the Common Core — resulted in his decision to move to a district nearer home, Patchogue-Medford.

Leonard Skuggevik crossed the water from Greenport where he had been secondary school principal to accept the position of superintendent here.

His vow to the Board of Education that hired him was to continue to implement the visions Dr. Hynes had for Shelter Island.

It was also the year in which the Board of Education arrived at a solution to heating problems that had surfaced toward the end of 2013. A bond issue not to exceed $1.63 million was approved to tackle a new heating and ventilation system.

At the same time,  Johnson Controls is undertaking a performance contract aimed at saving the district more money than work will cost for several upgrades to make the building more energy efficient.

The goal is to finish work early in the fall of 2015.

Dering Harbor elections
For the first time in his long tenure at Dering Harbor mayor, Tim Hogue not only faced real opposition at the polls, but only secured another term after a tie vote on election day forced a runoff with Patrick Parcells and a second runoff between incumbent Trustee Mary Walker and opponent Robert Ferris.

Both Mr. Parcels and Mr. Ferris ran write-in campaigns initially, and both lost the runoff election amid charges that the mayor had stacked the decks by registering a number of people who weren’t legitimate Dering Harbor residents. Proving that charge has been elusive.

Despite their losses, the two men said they hoped a message was being sent to Mr. Hogue that there was a need for more openness in village government that could help to mend fences. But if they hoped the mayor would reach out to those who had opposed him, he has not done so.

At the same time, other cases of blocking voters from casting ballots in previous elections surfaced and there remains a rift between those who backed the mayor and others who backed the insurgents.
North Ferry fare hikes

There was little fanfare or opposition as North Ferry general manager Bridg Hunt took a plan to hike rates for the company to the Suffolk County Legislature this last spring. The company is owned by the Heights Property Owners Corporation and fare hikes were pegged to the Consumer Price Index and represent a general 6 percent increase over three years. For Island residents, the hike for their commuter tickets was to be 4 percent. The legislature’s budget review board expressed no opposition and the proposal basically sailed through the full legislature with increases started in July.

HPOC transition

After 15 years at the helm, Julie Ben-Susan retired as general manager of the Heights Property Owners Corporation at the end of the summer, but will continue to split her time between Shelter Island and Fort Myers, Florida. Retirement provides her with the ability to devote more time to enjoying her family and pursuing hobbies for which she has had only limited time, she said.

Replacing her is Stella Lagudis, a newcomer to Shelter Island, but a woman known to Ms. Ben-Susan through previous work the two did together in financial services in New York City.

Carters clash in court
The Island’s two major carting companies have been engaged in a prolonged court battle over who has the right to use “Shelter Island” in its name — Shelter Island Sanitation or Shelter Island Environmental.

But with the case about to go to trial, came a sudden and unexpected settlement announced during the second week of December as Dan Binder of Shelter Island Sanitation said he sold about 50 percent of his business — that unit handling home refuse collections — to Jon DiVello of Shelter Island Environmental. The case was closed out in the courtroom and Mr. DiVello, who also operates Mattituck Environmental and is on the cusp of opening his almost $10 million Peconic Recycling and Transfer Station, won the day not in the courtroom, but at the negotiating table.

Mr. Binder had previously refused to sell any part of his business to Mr. DiVello, but said that when the bitterness that had built up between the two was put aside, the deal was able to be reached.

Mr. Binder will continue to operate that part of his business that deals in commercial refuse and construction and demolition debris as well as to continue his property management and carpentry work.

Taylor’s Island
Thanks to P.A.T. Hunt and a dedicated group of volunteers, the restoration of the Smith-Taylor Cabin on Taylor’s Island is complete on the outside and work is continuing on interior renovations.

The architects from Andre Tchelistcheff Architects have won two prestigious awards for their design of the project. The Long Island Chapter of the American Institute of Architects bestowed its Archi Award on the firm that also received the Stanford White Award from the Institute for Classical Architecture and Art.

Work has largely been undertaken with grant money and contributions as well as in-kind contributions of services to carry out a lot of work.

Once slated for demolition, the cabin and Island site are, as intended by benefactor S. Gregory Taylor, a place for enjoyment by the general public. Taylor’s Island is listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Church changes
Father Joel Ireland left St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in June after less than two years in its pulpit in a shake up that some in the congregation said was not a change he sought. Some congregates complained that the decision to replace Father Joel was made by the church vestry and failed to consider those who wanted the rector to stay. The Reverend Ronald Wickey has been in the pulpit at St. Mary’s since Father Joel left, but it remains unclear whether that remains an interim appointment or permanent.

In an orderly transition, the Reverend Stephen Fearing came to Shelter Island Presbyterian Church from his native Georgia, replacing the Reverend Anne Miller, who was here on an interim assignment.

Reverend Fearing arrived on the Island this summer, following his graduation from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, and he was ordained here on July 27.

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