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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Center Post Office.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Center Post Office.

Contain Airbnb
To the Editor:
Our community must contain Airbnb for the following reasons:

• Airbnb has a negative impact on affordable housing because Airbnb rentals absorb excess capacity and tighten rental markets, raising rental prices. This problem offsets the benefits of short-term income for struggling homeowners.

• Airbnb has a negative impact on property values because it makes it possible to share the benefits of ownership without putting capital at risk. Airbnb has already reconfigured the seasonal rental market, and therefore the housing market, in the Hamptons.

• Airbnb clearly violates zoning rules and hotel/bed and breakfast regulations. These laws and regulations exist to protect all homeowners and the local government is responsible for enforcing them.

• Unlike its ride-sharing equivalent, Uber, which benefits everyone (except taxi medallion owners) by creating new job opportunities and adding much needed supply for taxi riders, making the taxi “market” more efficient, the liquidity created by Airbnb comes with significant external costs, like neighborhood noise or falling house prices, that are not borne by Airbnb users enjoying the benefits, but by their neighbors.

• These costs, which economists call “externalities,” are exactly why Airbnb is contentious and why local governments in many communities are stepping in to make sure such costs are fairly allocated.

A compromise can be found that allows resident homeowners to benefit from the income generating potential of Airbnb without infringing on their neighbor’s rights to zoning code and hotel regulation enforcement. A minimum rental period and a requirement that the owner be present could be a reasonable solution.

However, the Town Board should make sure to align proposed Airbnb rules with existing zoning laws to ensure zoning rights are not infringed upon in the process of enabling Airbnb rentals under even more limited conditions.
Shelter Island

Airbnb aired out
To the Editor:
Shelter Island is a holiday destination needing to attract tourists during the summer months.

Money earned allows stores, restaurants and services to survive the winter doldrums. Income produced is the lifeblood giving the Shelter Island 10K, Perlman Music Program, the fireworks, and other attractions a chance to grow.

There’s a palpable sense of excitement when visitors are here. They should be welcomed. Tourists spend and participate in more activities than a resident occupying their home. Residents spend more with local builders, electricians, gardeners, cleaners, handymen, hardware stores, etc. to keep their home presentable for a renter.

Legislation limiting rentals to a two-week minimum, treating shorter stays under the B&B regulations, is detrimental to the Island’s economy. Such rentals are now common — people cannot afford the time or money to rent for longer. Tourists will not visit if a two-week minimum is required.

Airbnb’s “proliferation” is symptomatic of this demand that is not financially feasible for realtors to pursue. People want the ability to visit somewhere for less time, attending an event or celebration (more income for the Island) spending a week’s vacation with friends, but not as an interloper with a house owner present.

Second homeowners want the ability to rent their homes for a short time when not in use — it pays taxes for schools and services that we contribute to but don’t use, as well as the mortgage or upkeep.

In zones A/AA, B1 Town Attorney Dowd’s amended guidelines wouldn’t allow a couple to stay with their infant, child or family member because only one room with two occupants can be rented. Why do these regulations vary across the Island?

No homeowner wants to rent to someone to party here – we pay for subsequent damage and repairs. This is a matter for strict police enforcement of noise regulations, not restrictive rental regulations.

The Reporter’s police blotter mentions noise from homeowners’ own celebrations and barking dogs rather than “party houses.” Is noise disruption from short-termers really that great?

Control the number of occupants. But get tourists onto the Island.

If enacted this updated proposal would only serve to erode everyone’s property prices. People must be attracted to the Island, otherwise it will become an isolationist backwater being drowned by its infrastructure.

Can a weekend meeting be held to allow weekend residents to voice their concerns?
Shelter Island

A cautionary tale
To the Editor:
Monday, late afternoon, I’m walking my dog on West Neck, when around the first, blind curve after the Goat Hill corner swoops a happy horde of teenage bicyclists occupying much of the road. There follows a skate boarder, careening around into the opposite lane and back again. None are wearing helmets.

They stop briefly and I caution them that this is a dangerous road and urge them to keep to the right. Nice kids — not the smart-mouthed visitors I’m all too used to encountering this time of year. They assure me they will ride responsibly.

Fifteen minutes later, I round Behringer Lane back onto West Neck, and there, midway down the hilly second (also blind) curve, lies the skateboarder, unconscious. He’s fallen and hit his head coming down and around the hill. The kids have done the right thing and called the police. People have scrambled out of their cars to help. EMS soon arrives, then some of the kids’ parents, too.

I hope the young man is O.K.

As I said, these were nice kids having an exuberant time on a beautiful summer day. Why, I wonder, didn’t their parents insist that they wear protective gear, helmets included? Have they ever cautioned their kids about the dangers of not riding single file on the right side?

Skate-boarding on a main road with hills and blind curves, with not even a helmet? I wish I could have stopped him. I wish I could get the sight of the poor, unconscious boy out of my mind.
Shelter Island

St. Gabe’s
To the Editor:
Please help save the St. Gabe’s Chapel. There are just a few more weeks left to preserve this lovely, historic structure, with an incredible Island history of spiritual significance.

Thank you Father Robert and the Passionist Fathers of St. Gabe’s — your gift will help us restore all the stained glass windows and pour a new foundation. The O’Hagan/Klenawicus family graciously accepts all donations, via check to PO Box 244, Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965. Checks can be made out to O’Hagan/Klenawicus with “Save the St. Gabe’s Chapel” in the subject line. Also visit gofundme.com/savestgabeschapel, and our Facebook Page, facebook.com/savethestgabe’schapel,S.I.

Let’s preserve this beautiful chapel on this beautiful Island for everyone to enjoy for generations to come.
Shelter Island

Lighting and laws
To the Editor:
Councilman Jim Colligan would like to streamline the procedures for public participation when deciding how the Town Board will move on various issues. He seems to think that the several work sessions spent on the “Dark Skies” issue exemplifies a waste of the board’s time.

We, including then Councilman Brown, felt that a law requiring a certain type of exterior light fixture was intruding on our rights as property owners and unnecessary. This law was originally targeting the more affluent property owners who were keeping their tennis courts illuminated at night. It disturbed a few neighbors, so Councilwoman Chris Lewis decided an Island-wide law was needed.

When it was realized that it was unconstitutional to make laws for a specific class of people, the reasoning changed. Ms. Lewis then decided that lights at night confuse the birds, therefore we must duplicate what federal and state agencies are tasked to do.

Ms. Lewis was quoted on CBS News saying; “Darkness is not the enemy. [Lighting] isn’t necessary for security. You don’t need to light your property so you’re safe.” Councilwoman Lewis might like operating in the dark, but some of us feel otherwise.

The result of the robust debate on this issue were several key concessions. The hefty fine of $100 to $500 per day, per each individual light fixture violation, was meant to deter the rich property owner, although it applies to everyone.

A warning would be issued and this law would not be enforced unless a complaint is made. This was stated by the board but not written into the law.

The danger is that a future board might look at this law as a cash cow. Many homes are not compliant. It could be a rather large fine at a few hundred dollars a day after a week or a month. But understanding the logic, intent and spirit of the law is as important as the letter of the law when defending oneself. The time and energy spent in defining this law was well worth it.

Obviously, Councilman Colligan is taking the lead in Town Hall. But he is wrong to limit public involvement in our government. I suggest that the board make less unnecessary laws and focus on more important issues like ticks and the aging nuclear power plant that is just 15 miles away. An emergency was declared there last May.
Shelter Island

Not funny
To the Editor:
Your front page story of Finnegan, the great white shark (“Just when you thought it was safe,” July 7), sounds clever and funny at first glance. As a summer visitor to Shelter Island for many years, I have been the recipient and the creator of many pranks on the Island. I enjoy a good practical joke as much as, if not more than, most people.

However, as I thought about this one, I think it is carrying a prank too far. There are so many legitimate shark attacks that have ended tragically, that many people are at least somewhat cautious about swimming in open water.

Even though I now know about Finnegan, if I turned around and saw that shark near me while swimming in Peconic Bay, I would be terrified, if only for a few seconds, and I do not scare easily. The incident would definitely stay with me. The person who thought of this prank is obviously very creative, and so must be clever enough to find something else to do that would be equally funny without giving a major fright to unsuspecting swimmers.
Blufton, South Carolina
Editor’s note: As the story mentioned, the location was not in open waters but West Neck Creek, and Captain Glenn Waddington was very much in on the joke.