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This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


Film maker and founder of the Disney Company Walt Disney succumbed to lung cancer in California at the age of 65.

The spaghetti western, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” starring Clint Eastwood was released in the United States.

The rate of inflation rose to 3.01 percent, at least partially attributed to funding of the ongoing war in Vietnam.

Pop singer Andy Williams released the last in a series of albums produced by Robert Mersey titled “In the Arms of Love” that topped the Billboard charts a month later in January 1967.

In a 4-3 vote, the United States Supreme Court cleared the Braves baseball team to move from Milwaukee to Atlanta lifting an injunction that had been filed the previous year to keep the team in Milwaukee.

And on Shelter Island …

Town Board Planners debate zoning

Remember the good old days when there was no need for codes and agreements were concluded with a handshake?

Well that was on the edge of disappearing 40 years ago when the Town Board and Planning Board members began work on developing zoning codes.

The going was rough from the start with wide differences of opinion about how to proceed and it would be no quick solution as the boards tackled a 60-page draft.

POSTSCRIPT: Today, the push is on by the Town Board to add site planning for commercial properties to the Planning Board’s responsibilities.

In surrounding municipalities, planners typically do site planning on both commercial and residential properties. But Shelter Island planners concentrate primarily on lot line designations and get involved only peripherally in site planning.

The Town Board asked the planners for input about site planning for commercial development a couple of months ago and it has been slow in coming with Planning Board Chairman Paul Mobius telling the Town Board his members were reluctant about adding site planning.

However, pushed by the Town Board, he agreed members would look at a proposal and offer thoughts.

Island’s groundwater assessed.

In mid December 1986 the town received the results of a two-year study the United States Geological Survey conducted on the .quality of groundwater here.
While the report said water generally meets federal and state standards for drinking, there was concern in near shore areas about concentrations of manganese and chlorides in wells there, especially during the late summer and early fall.

The concentrations might be “esthetically objectionable” but aren’t threatening to health, according to the report.

POSTSCRIPT: The town has commissioned the USGS to conduct a three-year study of water quality that was supposed to start this fall but has been delayed.

The deer explosion

A Reporter editorial in mid December 1996 called on the Town Board to take action to deal with the number of deer on the Island.

No one at the time had a handle on how many deer roam the Island or clear statistics on vehicle-deer accidents. But there was a general belief that numbers were increasing and the Town Board had an obligation to protect the health and welfare of its residents.

“It won’t be easy or pleasant, but it’s necessary” for the town to take action to decrease the herd, the editorial said.

Interestingly, at the time, the concern was strictly about accidents with no mention of the tick population that was increasing here.

POSTSCRIPT: Twenty years later, the town’s Deer & Tick Committee continues to try to battle both the deer and tick populations with the most raging debate focusing on whether 4-posters or culling the herd are the most effective methods of dealing with the problem.

No discussion as big house law is eased

It was just a year earlier in 1965 that the Town Board had passed a resolution limiting the size of houses with more than 8,500 square feet of living space to take up no more than 7 percent of the overall lot. But in December 1966, with no fanfare and no one weighing in against the change, the Town Board unanimously tossed out that limit.

The aim the year before was to stop a proliferation of McMansions on the Island, but the Town Board concluded that most expansions of large houses would affect basements and porches and not dramatically change the mass of the structure.

There was a bit of an issue about advertising of the public hearing at which no one spoke because the legal notice didn’t clearly state that the 7 percent rule was to be eliminated.

POSTSCRIPT: In the past couple of years, the Town Board has renewed the exploration of trying to limit house sizes as a few applications have raised questions. Most recent discussions this year have been on proportionality — how much square foot living space should be allowed as related to lot size.

But with other issues demanding attention, the Town Board has yet to take action to change current codes.

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