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‘Proportionality’ — Board wrestles with new construction size

COURTESY PHOTO | JULIE LANE PHOTO The Town Board at Tuesday’s work session discussed ‘proportionality’ — what it means and where it should apply.

The Town Board at Tuesday’s work session discussed ‘proportionality’ — what it means and where it should apply.

When the Town Board struggled last fall with Brad Tolkin’s bid to build an 8,297-square-foot house on Charlie’s Lane, it knew that action wouldn’t end the controversy about how large is too large for Shelter Island.

Mr. Tolkin’s application passed as he offered mitigations in response to various concerns voiced by neighbors, the board and others about his plans.

In the aftermath of that application, the board is now struggling with what it has termed “proportionality.”

The term itself was challenged at Tuesday’s Town Board work session by Councilman Paul Shepherd as the discussion veered from structure size to water levels, quality and quantity of water and various environmental factors in what the board calls fragile overlay zones.

That’s not simply the Near Shore Overlay District that has for years been subject to restrictions not imposed in other areas. The rest of the town has a “one size fits all” policy, subject to Zoning Board of Review variances for structures larger than code permits, Councilman Peter Reich said.

Even beyond the Near Shore Overlay District, there are fragile, low-lying coastal areas that probably shouldn’t support large structures such as Mr. Tolkin is building, the committee agreed.

At the same time, there are some areas that on a map might appear questionable but aren’t sensitive at all, Mr. Reich said.

In an attempt at identifying which areas need protection and which don’t, there was some minor agreement. Limiting massive structures from the beginning of Ram Island Drive to the base of the hill by the Ram’s Head Inn, the board agreed, makes sense.

But to determine what a given area can sustain, Mr. Shepherd said he thinks structure proportions should be gradual, building by building. What also concerns the councilman is what restrictions might be imposed on people that could require cisterns and use of trucked-in water. He wants as little restriction on people as possible and as few heavy trucks as possible rumbling across Island roads to bring in water from outside sources.

“This is just a starting point,” Mr. Reich assured Mr. Shepherd about the discussion.

Mr. Reich promised to draft a few alternative maps to help his colleagues identify which areas are fragile and need more protection and which should be considered for building larger structures than code allows on a case by case basis by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

In other business, the Town Board:
• Discussed the impending resignation of John Hallman from the Water Advisory Committee with Supervisor Jim Dougherty noting Mr. Hallman’s long service to the town. Mr. Dougherty said the committee has only four members and needs to restructure and re-examine its role. He said he wants Mr. Hallman’s input in the discussion and on moving forward with the newly minted Irrigation Law.

Mr. Dougherty also noted that the WAC will be meeting with a representative for the United States Geological Survey Monday afternoon to discuss changes in well readings the organization performs for the town. The aim, based on both WAC discussions and information from the Irrigation Committee, suggests fewer readings on water quantity levels and more readings that also look at water quality.

• Accepted a request on which it expects to act to allow the new Vue restaurant at the Shelter Island Country Club to stay open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and until 10 on Sundays of holiday weekends. That would mean the last order would go into the kitchen by 9:30 p.m. and there would be no allowing people to line up drinks and linger late into the night.

The request came from Ian Weslek, one of three partners who are operating Vue.

“I want to be very neighborly,” Mr. Weslek promised and said there would be no loud and amplified music and more parking is being created for restaurant customers. Heights Property Owners Corporation Executive Director Stella Lagudis agreed, but wanted assurance that HPOC would be consulted if a request to extend the longer hours after the first year is sought.

Mr. Weslek said he would also like to be able to open for special events such as weddings from time to time.

• Approved continuation of the Length of Service Award Program providing pension payments to volunteers in the Shelter Island Ambulance Corps.