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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor


How’s he doing?
To the Editor:
The December 1 and December 15 issues of the Reporter have contained letters from Supervisor Dougherty regarding his stewardship and focus for town finances. He is proud to say that his focus is “ticks, taxes and the aquifer.”

Let’s review how he is doing. Yesterday I received my “tax rebate” from New York State in the amount of $3.00! The reason for this parsimonious amount is that the Town Board has consistently voted to break the 2 percent tax cap. Other taxpayers in towns where the cap is not broken receive rebates in the hundreds of dollars. At the same time, I received my tax bill for this year and it increased 3.5 percent.

On the aquifer, everyone is aware that our clean water levels are deteriorating annually. The Town Board voted for “voluntary” conservation. Did that help? Perhaps taking up to 20 percent of the money intended for land conservation to build another committee to spend it is the correct choice, but I doubt that.

Finally, on ticks, Mr. Payne’s presentation at the board meeting, while admittedly not conclusive, clearly indicates that, despite the cooler weather, the amount of ticks is increasing. So on the priorities voiced by our supervisor, I do not believe that our town is doing well at all.

Besides those priorities, Supervisor Dougherty rants that our roads are in good shape. By implication, he is telling our elected representatives that the great grants for roads that they have obtained for us are not needed.

Perhaps Supervisor Dougherty should pay attention to other issues, including the airbnb problem, instead of his current focus.
Shelter Island

To the Editor:
Recent Reporter articles have referred to the difficult compromises our elected officials have confronted in finalizing the town budget for the new fiscal year, followed by robust self-congratulation by those officials on the splendid effort the new budget represents.

Now comes the bill. Year-over-year budget increases, school 6.2 percent; library, 4.1 percent; general, 6.2 percent; total 6.0 percent. My already high Shelter Island taxes have just been increased by 7.7 percent. I seem to recall that New York State called for an annual tax cap of 2 percent. How foolish to think that any such spending limits proposed by politicians might actually mean anything.

Consider relevant national metric changes for 2016: real GDP, 1.5 percent; social security COLA, 0.3 percent; U.S. price inflation, 0.82 percent. Meanwhile the U.S. national debt will increase to almost $20 trillion in 2016.

Spending is captive to the special interests that cry the loudest without particular regard to whether an expenditure is wise, or whether it is a proper function of government, or whether we can, or should, afford it.
Shelter Island

Laws on the books
To the Editor:
This year marks my 46th year on Shelter Island, so I have been through a lot of summer rental seasons.

The 1970s through the 1990s were decades characterized by mostly monthly and long-term summer rentals when mommies and their children would go down to meet the “Daddy Ferry” every Friday night. Now, economics often dictate that both parents work and can often only enjoy short-term rental vacations.

My four decade experience is that most renters, visitors and homeowners are quiet and peaceful, here to enjoy our beautiful Island. The noisy exceptions seem to be in the minority. How many complaints have been filed in the past year and what is the total number of all summer rentals, short- and long-term?

The rental issues historically have been about objectionable loud noise and nuisance behavior, for both long- and short-term residential rentals as well as commercial rentals — think Sunset Beach. In addition, the Island has a few property owners who arrive for the summer season and noisily entertain late at night or let their children engage in loud objectionable behavior. I have a neighbor with teenagers who have often engaged in boorish late night pool party behavior, which has included screaming, foul language and barking dogs.

Instead of passing more burdensome regulations that don’t cover the wide range of noise and nuisance issues, I suggest the Town Board look at the regulations and rules that are already on the books and enforce them. Homeowners are entitled under the real property law to “Quiet Enjoyment” of their homes. Whether the noise and nuisance behavior is from a short- or long-term renter, a neighbor or a noisy bar and grill, we all suffer when there is objectionable behavior, loud noise and a lack of enforcement.

Perhaps the board could publish a list of laws currently on the books that state the regulations we have regarding noise and nuisance. I would encourage the board over the next two seasons to collect a complete set of data, including verified complaints and analyze it before passing any new regulations.

And please do not hold a public hearing in January when most of the public is away.
Shelter Island

Rental insurance
To the Editor:
In a recent edition of the Reporter there was a summary, of sorts, of the proposed legislation for short-term rentals that included reference to required evidence of liability insurance coverage. However, what was outlined made it obvious that the Town Board had not conferred with the town’s insurance provider, since what was suggested as being required is not what is necessarily available.

First of all, any residences available for rental, are not eligible for a package “homeowner’s” policy, but need a “dwelling fire” policy which does not include liability coverage. That, in turn, would require a specific liability endorsement or separate policy, depending on the insurance provider.

In addition, renters themselves are not insured, any more than the policyholder of a “homeowner’s” policy is, although a visitor of a renter, for example would be covered under the renter’s policy.

It would appear that these limitations, therefore, may nullify the board’s intended purposes for such required liability insurance coverage. And, while I am retired from the insurance business, I don’t think these basic provisions have changed, but should be looked into before something unobtainable is mandated.

Now, any reference to liability protection has been eliminated from the latest proposed legislation. Safety for owners or renters is no longer a consideration, it seems.

However, what is even more onerous is that the most recent edition of the proposed legislation no longer provides for any time restrictions on rentals, nor does it require owner occupancy on premises, despite the inclusion of a definition of “owner occupied.”

Does anyone know what they’re doing anymore, if they ever did, and do four out of five board members totally ignore the petition of 274 property owners with a clear conscience? Are they not sworn to represent the interests of the residents of our town? We had better all attend the January 27th hearing to defend our homes, our values and the future of our island!
Shelter Island

Editor’s note: Airbnb offers host liability coverage with certain restrictions, limitations and exclusions. The website advises its hosts to contact their own insurance carriers stating,“It’s always a good idea to let your insurance carrier know about rental activity in your space.”

Postpone rental hearing
To the Editor:
The current draft legislation on short-term rentals that the Town Board is considering has no restrictions on the length of stay or how many times a residence can be rented without the homeowner being on site. This draft lacks the protections in similar legislation enacted by our neighboring towns. If it is enacted in its present form, it will encourage people to buy homes on the Island for the sole purpose of putting them in the short-term rental pool, and this will lead to a loss of available housing for local residents seeking primary homes.

It will also encourage an increase in the number of short-term visitors to the Island, thereby changing the character of the Island that many of us cherish.

The current hearing date of January 27 on the draft legislation set by the board on December 9 will prevent many Islanders, both full-time and seasonal residents, from being able to express their views on this important legislation. I strongly recommend that the board postpone the January 27 hearing to a date in May or June when a broad cross section of Island residents will have the opportunity to attend.
Shelter Island

Laughable — or scary?
To the Editor:
Last week I wrote my first letter to the editor of this paper because I was concerned about the growing threat posed by short-term rentals of non-owner occupied homes on our Island. When I wrote that letter, the Town Board was refusing to make public a proposed law they had drafted ostensibly to address this problem. However, succumbing to pressure from the public and the Reporter, they finally released their draft law. After reading it, I felt compelled to write this letter — my second in 45 years as a Shelter Island resident and taxpayer.

While the proposed law mentions the myriad problems posed by short-term rentals of non-owner occupied homes, its solutions are laughable. If you register your home as a rental property, maintain a rental registry, find a local contact person, and print and provide a “Good Neighbor Brochure,” you and everybody else on the Island can rent their homes by the month, week, day or hour. Every day and night, all year long!

We will be the only town on the East End that does not outlaw rentals of less than two weeks, so the Island could become the go-to place for mobs of people searching online for a place to raise hell for a weekend or a night or just an evening. In other words, every house on the Island can become a potential hotel, party destination, flop house or worse. Most of them will be in residential neighborhoods where businesses like these are now prohibited. The board’s proposal becomes even more laughable — or scary — once you discover there is no provision or attempt to enforce the law, as toothless as it is.

Islanders who want to learn more and perhaps add their names to over 200 others who are in favor of strict controls can visit the following web site: preserveshelterisland.com.
Shelter Island

The town’s role
To the Editor:
In the draft of the short-term rental law as a process, I think the Town Board has the best intentions at heart. The members’ passion in their defense of their stances has been, while often highly unusual from elected officials at public meetings with their constituents, from the right place: their love of Shelter Island.
But regardless of intention, there are some serious infringements of our rights being made by the law as drafted that need to be changed, as well as some definitions that both leave the town’s liability exposed. At the very least we can all agree we cannot expose the town to legal action when we can avoid it. Look at Dering Harbor, they’ve dropped tens of thousands so far on a land dispute.

I think it’d be prudent to make the following information available to both the town and the board prior to the hearing of the proposed law. Essentially, the town’s legal intent as stated in the draft law violates property rights as a short-term rental landlord is not changing the usage of the property from residential to commercial by renting short-term. Several high courts throughout the U.S. have determined that short-term (or long-term) renting of a home zoned for single family residential use is not considered a commercial enterprise, regardless of exchange of money or payment of excise taxes on said money.

I don’t need to get into detail of the additional cost to the town it really can’t absorb without raising taxes (enforcement officer, spyware etc.). We all know that fees/fines won’t balance out with the cost. I doubt the board will be picking up the difference here for us; we the constituents and taxpayers will be stuck with this cost.

I urge board members to postpone the draft hearing, sit down and look at other island towns like Shelter Island and the exposure to liability, and ask yourselves: “What is the town’s role here if the usage of the property (i.e. zoning) isn’t changed?”

Without the “commercialization of residential” argument, there is no valid legal intent for any law to be passed regulating short-term rental of property.
Shelter Island

A non-issue
To the Editor:
The short-term rental issue is an example of making a mountain out of a molehill.

The molehill is the single party. The mountain is the draconian and likely illegal regulations proposed to regulate a non-issue. My favorite criticism of short-term rentals is that we pay more to clean our homes than hotels.

The proposed regulations also apply to homeowners who rent for the entire summer season or for a month. The Town Board has not articulated a justification for the 13 requirements. There is no factual basis for the “finding” that short-term vacation rentals affect the availability of long-term affordable housing; the houses are only offered for the short-term, which allows owners time to enjoy their homes. The “conclusion” that short-term rentals constitute a commercial use is erroneous and does not insulate the town from legal attacks based on grandfathering and the taking of a property right without a compelling reason.

I am a 23-year owner of a home in Silver Beach, which I have rented on and off. I am lucky to have had the luxury, as a small business owner, of spending the entire month of July every summer for 17 years with my now 24-year-old daughter, Maddy. Maddy attended Sunday school at the Presbyterian Church and Quinipet from the time she was three. She taught tennis in the Heights, worked at and took tennis at Moussa’s behind the Pridwin, and worked as a counselor at Quinipet for several years. My sister had her rehearsal dinner at the Pridwin and was married at Quinipet. Her reception was at my home — now that was a party.

I know that nowadays people do not have the luxury of renting a beach house for more than a week because both parents, or single renters, work. Other island beach communities like Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Fishers Island, Fire Island and Block Island do not restrict short-term rentals. Rather, they understand the benefit of such rentals to the local economy and post available rentals on the town website. My typical renter is a family — often multi-generational— who desire a private house with a kitchen so they can enjoy the experience together.

I am saddened that a few new Town Board members are using this issue to divide homeowners. The Reporter’s December 16 editorial concludes “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” Scary.
Shelter Island

Dock lease hike
To the Editor:
It’s 2:30 a.m. on Friday, December 16, 2016. I am unable to sleep and my brain is having trouble digesting the recent letter sent to the Congdon’s Creek Dock Lessees. The letter states the annual fee is now $500, doubling last year’s rate and it’s the second time the fee has doubled in less than eight years. The reason for the increase is unknown to me since the Town Board chose to pass this resolution without any discussion with the parties affected.

This seems like greasy, backroom politics. Why were we not notified and given a chance to have a conversation prior to the resolution? This is the conversation I would have presented to the board had I an opportunity to speak:

The predecessors of this Town Board were aware and concerned enough about our baymen being able to access our local waters that they built the dock at Congdon’s Road specifically to ensure their survival. Baymen are generally of modest income and the fees were set to reflect this. The purpose of this dock was never intended to compete with commercial marinas or boatyards. Nor was it intended to create capital to run the Town of Shelter Island.

Let’s talk about the baymen and their families. They don’t own McMansions with deep water docks and they don’t belong to the Yacht Club. They do pay taxes, vote and give back to the community. They wash dishes and make sandwiches at our churches; they volunteer for our ambulance and Fire Department; they are part of the core of our town.

The board has lost sight of the purpose for this dock. There will be fewer baymen next year because of this senseless action. I am extremely disappointed in our Town Board. Maybe you can make the case that only people with big money should own boats.

We still have local clams, scallops and fish. If we deny access for our local baymen, this food source will be just a memory. We’ll all be dining on farm raised clams from Virginia, frozen processed scallops from China and tilapia (is that fish?) from Africa.

In closing I have to say that beach permits are free and we lease Goat Hill for one dollar. Why? These are the perks of being an Islander. Why push our baymen to extinction?
Shelter Island

A challenge
To the Editor:
The story, “What’s cooking at Goat Hill?”(December 15), although accurate for the most part, may leave Shelter Island Country Club (SICC) members as well as the community with the impression that all is lost because the lease of the last restaurateur is not being renewed or that previous restaurant owners decided not to return.

It’s not uncommon, particularly in the restaurant business, for a company to falter in the first year. This is even more so on Shelter Island where the season is really just three short months. It’s a challenge for sure. That said, we would like to assure our members and other patrons of the SICC that we are looking forward to next season and the prospects offered by a new restaurant owner. The club’s board has worked very diligently to ensure we have someone with plenty of experience and the right credentials to run the club’s restaurant successfully.

We’re aware that some of the scuttlebutt has declared the club “bankrupt.” That’s not the case. The board has met almost weekly to grapple with the SICC’s budget and is considering policies that will stabilize the SICC’s finances. It would be premature to discuss those policies at this juncture before the membership has been informed, but be assured that this board is working hard to do everything possible to foster the club’s mission — a 115-year-old tradition and an institution that has been called by some, “the jewel of Shelter Island.”
Secretary, Shelter Island Country Club Board of Directors

Editor’s note:The Reporter stands by the accuracy of last week’s story.

Put it on a T-shirt
To the Editor:
In 1984 I visited a number of artists studios in Moscow as part of a citizens exchange art program. One artist was painting the forbidden — religious motifs and crucifixions, very tame to most of us but he was banned from the party and from having a state-sponsored studio and exhibits. Another artist seeking freedom of expression came here to paint his political pictures and found, to his chagrin, that no matter what he painted, no one cared.

Why? Fewer people go to the art galleries and museums. But if you do a cartoon for all the world to see, watch out! Toes are trampled, feathers rumpled. Everyone has an opinion.

In South Africa, an artist friend did a devastating exposé installment of the government destroying black housing for a new white settlement since it had too good a view to “waste” on the blacks. No reaction. Her husband did a political image on a T-shirt that was worn by the public — in no time his production was shut down. In these cases the public was considered a potent critic, everyone was involved but in the art gallery, a small audience was considered ineffective.

Peter Waldner has managed to speak for many of us and to irritate a few others. Cartoons reach everyone and have more power than many other forms of expression that are perhaps more subtle. What a success to have evoked such strong reactions.
Freedom of speech. Yea!
Shelter Island

Thanks to all
To the Editor:
Shelter Island is a great place to live. Each year St. Mary’s Church Women hold two fundraisers — Election Eve Ham Dinner and the St. Nicholas Day Fair. These events provide us with an opportunity to distribute funds to the following local and non-local organizations: Shelter Island Senior Citizen Advisory Council; Shelter Island Citizen Nutrition/Meals on Wheels; Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation; Eastern Long Island Hospital; Shelter Island Food Pantry; Shelter Island Library; East End Hospice; Shelter Island Community Chorus; Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch; Shelter Island Historical Society; the Island Gift of Life Foundation; The Retreat; Shelter Island Vacation Bible School; Shelter Island Educational Fund; Shelter Island All Faith Youth; and Honorarium Graduating Senior.

Much of the money raised comes from the generous businesses and individuals who donate towards our raffle and silent auction. To them, we would like to express our sincere appreciation, especially to the Reporter; Shelter Island Florist; Shelter Island PBA; Shelter Island Wine & Spirits; Riverhead Building Supply; King Kullen; Jack’s Marine; Teoduro Plumbing; Cornucopia; Piccozzi’s; South Ferry; K Gallery; Bay Street; Cicero’s Barber Shop; North Fork Theatre; Dandy Liquors; Marie Eiffel; Wm. J. Mills; Roz Dimon; Alan Shaw; and Marian Brownlie. For such a small community it never ceases to amaze how frequently they are asked to donate and yet do so over and over again. Thank you.
Shelter Island