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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor


No lengthy treatise
To the Editor:
We wish you the very best for the holidays and, oh, here is your town property tax bill — please pay promptly. It’s our annual ritual and you have been very good sports about it. Shelter Island has among the very highest voluntary payment rates by taxpayers, probably the result of a combination of the wonderful, cooperative taxpayer constituents we are fortunate to have, and our (relatively) low taxes. Thank you.

I’ll skip sharing with you my lengthy treatise on managing our 52 miles of Shelter Island roads. Believe me, it’s not rocket science. I have found in business and government, keeping it as simple as possible is the way to go. I have always resisted hiring the fancy consultants/experts who charge hefty fees to borrow your watch and tell you what time it is. I take a look at our 52 miles of roads regularly and would appreciate it if you would keep an eye and stop in my office or phone me anytime when you find any local roads difficult to drive on and in need of special attention. Thank you.
Supervisor, Town of Shelter Island

An outrage
To the Editor:
The Town Board has been discussing short-term rentals for seven months without reaching a resolution, and then refused to reveal to the press and public the specifics of their draft resolution on this issue (“Town violates Open Meetings Law,” December 8). Instead, they propose another public hearing. This one in mid-winter: January 27. This is an outrage!

Of course the issues need to be aired in public, but a mid-winter hearing, when the Island’s population is roughly 80 percent smaller than in the warmer months, is not transparent and not fair. It’s a cynical political ploy. Having “kicked the can down the road” for months, the board should have no trouble kicking it a little further and scheduling a hearing and vote in May or June when the majority of homeowners/tax payers can weigh in.

How we handle the challenge of short-term rentals is absolutely critical to the future of the Island as we know and love it. These short-term rentals are a threat to the enjoyment of our unique, calm and relatively unspoiled Island.

Airbnb and other online brokers threaten to revolutionize the hospitality business the way Uber transformed taxis, Amazon crippled retailing and Travelocity is upending travel. An assessor reported that an alarming number of Island homes sold over the past few years were quickly turned into rental properties. And the number of short-term rentals advertised online is also alarming and growing rapidly. If we fail to pass a law that restricts rentals to two weeks or more and limits the number of times a house can be rented, the practice of converting residences into businesses will become epidemic.

The board must resolve this because all or most of the surrounding towns have passed laws restricting short-term rentals that are more stringent than any now under consideration here. If we don’t catch up, the Island could become the go-to destination for those who have been barred everywhere else.

Finally, it seems we have already begun aiding people who purchase houses they cannot afford, planning to rent them to make their mortgage payments. Remember back in 2008 when masses of folks were encouraged to buy sub-prime mortgages to finance houses they could not otherwise afford? Massive mortgage defaults and then the Great Recession! We cannot afford this.

Memo to the Board: If you step back and consider the damage that could be done by inaction or indifference, I’m sure you will do the right thing.
Shelter Island
Editor’s note: Town Attorney Laury Dowd sent the draft of the proposed rental law to the Reporter on December 8 and it is now posted on the town’s website.

Power to enforce
To the Editor:
The only way for Shelter Island to avoid the nuisance of unwanted noise, loud parties and excessive numbers of people in a summer rental is for the town to require that all owners who rent have an on-Island “property manager” available 24/7, with power to enforce rental rules in a contract, which the lessee has signed and that includes the authority of the property manager to evict, should the lessee not comply with the rules in the contract.

The name of the property manager would be registered with the town and known to all nearby neighbors of the rental property.

We have seen this system work very successfully at other vacation locations and we cannot see why it would not work on Shelter Island.
Shelter Island

Taking steps
To the Editor:
I am concerned that the Town Board will not take steps to control the negative impacts that, from New Orleans to Montauk, communities have attributed to the advent of short-term vacation rentals, including:
•    Over crowding, excessive noise. We witnessed this problem in two houses in our South Midway Road neighborhood this past summer.
•    Some investors purchase multiple houses for this use or commercializing otherwise residential neighborhoods. This has been directly witnessed in our community and is implied by numbers recently cited by the Assessor’s Office of houses purchased and put to use as short-term rentals. No longer the mom-and-pop-renting-out-a-room model.
•    Continued decline in an already withering stock of affordable rental housing. We know people who have been denied contract renewals because the property was being converted to a more attractive short-term rental usage.
•    Breakdown of zoning discipline by virtue of the frequency of residential zones used for commercial activities.

Zoning discipline is a fundamental tenet of a viable community and must be maintained. Shelter Island has always been thought of as different, an unpretentious community — the “un-Hamptons.” Now, however, the other four East End towns have implemented regulatory restrictions on short-term rentals to protect their communities from the above cited negative impacts of this practice.

The Island has taken no moves to restrict minimum rental terms nor maximum number of such rentals permitted. If we do not enact at least the same restrictions the other towns have, this blight of short-term rentals will focus on the permissive atmosphere here. If the other towns have barriers against this and our community has none, it’s logical that our community will become the “short-term rental capital” of the East End.

Parenthetically, holding an open meeting to discuss this subject when most Islanders are here and available would be a sage and decent move. I’m afraid January 27, 2017 does not satisfy this criterion. Renewing the discussion in the spring might make more sense.

If we do indeed abdicate the responsibility to preserve this unique asset of ours, this understated, unpretentious residential charm, and if we step aside and permit the unfettered flood of short-term rentals to pollute our community and to differently define our uniqueness, we shall permanently regret having done so.
Shelter Island

Deeply disturbed
To the Editor:
I am deeply disturbed by what I see and hear from Town Board members Jim Colligan and Mary Dudley. They seem hell-bent on overreaching and regulating to institute legislation that would destroy the culture and economy of Shelter Island, negatively impact our property values, raise taxes, necessitate costly enforcement and put us at risk of lawsuits.

We cannot allow a diminishment or elimination of rights we purchased or inherited when we took possession of our homes. We have the right to rent to anyone and for as long as we want. Period. The more regulation that is imposed, the more our property values will suffer. For proof, look no further than the city. Real Estate Reports for 2Q 2016 show that by every matrix (number of days on the market, average sales price, price per square foot, and percentage of discount to the original price) condos continue to outpace co-ops. Why? People simply do not want their neighbors regulating and policing them.

Mr. Colligan either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care. He’s a former gym teacher — with zero governing, business and legal experience — who is out to win, and for what’s at stake, it seems at any cost. At work sessions he acts like a coach muttering obscenities at his opponents and pounding his fists.

Equally inappropriate are Mr. Colligan’s discriminatory remarks and propensity for anecdote in lieu of fact. His recent suggestions on how to enforce short-term rental regulations are dangerous and include the Island buying spyware to troll the internet. Doesn’t he realize that case law exists on invasion of privacy and that he would, therefore, be subjecting the Island to costly lawsuits?

He suggested neighbors could sign up to police other neighbors. Absurdly, Mr. Colligan thinks ushering in a Cold War of sorts is a way to preserve the spirit of the Island he alleges to love. Purposefully pitting neighbor against neighbor, all to prevent the occasional exuberant reveler (not that he has proof that short-term renters are loud) and to protect a couple of Island hotels?

Mr. Colligan and Ms. Dudley both have a lot to learn from highly educated, steady, experienced, graceful Dougherty and should not be allowed to hijack our wallets, homes and traditions.
Shelter Island

Ringing true
To the Editor:
I am very proud to have Peter Waldner as the cartoonist with the Reporter. What his drawing of a U.S. flag torn down the middle stirs in me is a sadness born of recognition, alongside a resolve to work with others to try and mend it — to see it whole again.

If Hillary had won the election, the image would still ring true. We live in a country torn apart, but maybe not so much as we think. The great thing about Peter’s work is it makes us think and feel — speaking to the larger issues of freedom (and its discontents). Onward.
Shelter Island

Great kids
To the Editor:
On behalf of Griffing & Collins Real Estate and DJTM Enterprises, LLC, I want to thank the Shelter Island High School’s 10th grade class for the beautiful decorations on the tree outside my office on Grand Avenue. I also thank the Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce in organizing the holiday celebration events this month from the tree lighting to the Christmas trees and the “Decorate your Door” contest that business owners like myself are participating in.

Another thank you to Ken Lewis and Rob Gorcoff for delivering the trees and stands. I hope all residents enjoy the festive lights and decor throughout the island and visit the local businesses for all your shopping needs. And thanks to our great school kids for their decorating skills. As they say in Hawaii, “Mele Kalikimaka e Hauoli Makahiki Hou.”
Shelter Island