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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO The Town Board Friday holding a public hearing on proposed short-term rental legislation. From left, Assistant Town Clerk Sharon Jacobs, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar, Councilwoman Amber Brach- Williams, Councilman Jim Colligan, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Councilwoman Chris Lewis and Town Attorney Laury Dowd.
The Town Board Friday holding a public hearing on proposed short-term rental legislation. From left, Assistant Town Clerk Sharon Jacobs, Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar, Councilwoman Amber Brach- Williams, Councilman Jim Colligan, Supervisor Jim Dougherty, Councilman Paul Shepherd, Councilwoman Chris Lewis and Town Attorney Laury Dowd. Several letters this week commented on the public hearing.

Where are we going?
To the Editor:

I read with great interest the recent online piece on the Island school being “susceptible to fiscal stress.”

As town engineer, none of my work addresses such issues. However, in 2003 and 2004, while serving on the Planning Board and the Planning and Zoning Task Force (PZTF) as well as being a twice elected Shelter Island property assessor, I had the responsibility of developing a report on affordable housing for the town. I worked closely in concert with Phil Herr, the town planning consultant who assisted in the development of the Comprehensive Plan of 1993.

To the best of my knowledge the work was the last comprehensive look at a number of significant demographic factors that influence many things in our community. That report was part of an exhaustive assessment of a number of issues by members of the PZTF.

More recently, I was invited to the school by the senior class and their faculty to address issues related to affordable housing. Once again we touched on the changing demographics of Shelter Island. Students and faculty members alike had a keen interest in the topic and asked outstanding questions.

I submit that in a free society we cannot do too much to alter demographics, but we can carefully study and respond to them. Today, doing so in this community is more important than ever. We need a refined understanding of “who we are” and “where we are going.”

I think we all recognize that eastern Long Island is not the one I knew as a child in Sag Harbor in 1953. I suspect the good folks res­ponsible for the school will begin to closely look at the implications of fiscal stress, and in doing so, the demographic make-up of the community they serve.

Such an examination should also be linked to municipal government and volunteer critical services such as fire and emergency medical.
Shelter Island Town Engineer

Meaningful legislation
To the Editor:
I was pleased to see the large number of people who showed up for the lengthy public hearing on Friday regarding short-term rentals. I paid close attention to what each of the speakers had to say and I can safely say that more than 60 percent were in favor of some form of regulation on the proliferation of these rentals.

It might be a good idea for the Town Board to go back to some of their original legislation proposals because many people seemed to favor the 14-day requirement. Reasonable regulation can equal responsible rentals, which in turn helps ease the void of affordable year-round rentals for our community. It’s a complicated issue and I challenge our leaders to create meaningful legislation.
Shelter Island

To the Editor:
Last Friday I testified that while there are instances where regulating property rights is lawful, this is not one of them. There are no facts to support the compelling reason required to take away property rights. I cited two cases: One from the highest court in New York, the other from the U.S. Supreme Court. Both courts struck down legislation that had an indisputable public purpose: Regulating what owners of single room occupancies could do with their buildings to help the homeless crisis in New York City and EPA regulations that help the environment but whose cost outweighed the benefit. The costs of enforcing the proposed Shelter Island regulations have not been addressed.

Short-term rentals are being singled out as a fix for the Island’s affordable housing crisis. They are wholly unrelated. My water-view beach house is not affordable housing. I use my home regularly. I don’t rent my house for the season, monthly or in two-week periods because those types of rentals are hard to find, and because I enjoy using my house in the summer. I’ve never received a complaint regarding renters.

Yes, I am angry that people want to take my house away from me — at least its enjoyment. I am angry that people call me greedy and infer that I don’t understand Island culture after owning for 23 years and raising my daughter here. I, an activist Democrat, and many of my friends, voted Republican for the Town Board position because the Democrat running was trying to take away our rights.

I am angry that people are making up reasons to persuade the town that the regulations are legal. There is no evidence people are buying homes on the Island with no intent to enjoy them but, rather, to rent them for the short term. There is no economic basis to do so — a short summer season will not provide this “speculator” with a profit.

Hypocrisy angers me. The very people who are complaining are those who line up rentals for less than a week: For their friends and family.

There is no community benefit here to hurting people like me and others who love their homes but also use their right to rent. Southold and Riverhead are being sued. The comparable island communities that don’t regulate short-term rentals are happy and healthy.
Shelter Island

No comparison
To the Editor:
I am writing to refute the often repeated comparison of Shelter Island to other islands such as Nantucket, Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. Those opposed to short-term rental restrictions insist Shelter Island is similar.

This is a false comparison.

First, ferry access is not even close to comparable. For Block Island, even the walk-on high-speed vessel takes 30 minutes. During peak season, only six daily trips are offered. Per person fares are $20 one-way. Reservations are recommended. The one-way auto fare to Block Island on the traditional ferry is almost $40. Those costs certainly deter short-term Block Island stays. Our excellent and frequent ferry service with an auto presents no such impediment.

Second, the other islands are “one-way” destinations. Visitors travel to and return from those islands. Shelter Island can be a through route from either the North or South forks, making it attractive for transient visitors to stay for a night or two, perhaps on a twin-forks wine tasting weekend.

Finally, travel to the Island is easier than fighting the Montauk Highway traffic. As neighboring towns see fit to regulate short-term rentals, so must we. In failing to do so, our Island will become the “go-to” destination for those unable to stay on the South Fork.
Shelter Island

Something that works
To the Editor:
I have been a resident of Shelter Island in one form or another all my life. Renting a home used to mean contacting a realtor to either list or look for a house to rent. However, all things change, all of us have been affected in many ways by access to the internet and the technology that is part and parcel of it. Why should the process of renting a house be any different?

I have had many years of experience with short-term renters; 99 percent of them have been delightful; however, the one percent of those who are less than, can certainly make for an unpleasant experience. I do, though, believe there needs to exist some mechanism by which owners or their agents can be notified in the event one of those one percent situations arise.

Hence, there is a need for some type of no-cost registration of any property that is privately rented. It is incumbent on those owners who choose to rent their properties through the use of online services to have the ability to respond to situations that might arise at their property. While I don’t favor limits on the duration of a rental, I think that there may be some merit in placing a limit on the number of such events that can happen at a noncommercial property in a calendar year —maybe eight?

I don’t buy the notion that this type of rental is precluding people from finding year-round accommodations. By and large, the people who engage in such rental activity also want to spend some portion of the year enjoying their property themselves. No one argues that there is a need for some additional form of lower cost housing on Shelter Island, but for the most part, the houses that are being used for short term rental purposes would not fit into the low cost category anyway.

We need to be creative when it comes to finding ways to keep our young people on the Island. I do not believe that additional laws that severely restrict rentals are the answer. There are a plethora of laws already on the books to deal with situations that arise between neighbors. More is not always the answer. Let us really think this through and come up with something that works for everyone.
Shelter Island

A win-win
To the Editor:
Second homeowners are not second class citizens. There have been some disparaging comments made in Town Hall about them. While there are some uber-rich, many are just middle-class working stiffs. They rent and work in the city with the hope they will someday pay off the mortgage and settle here. Although they are here only two or three days a week and with no kids in our school, there’s no discount on their taxes. Second homeowners support the local economy big time. Our elected officials must fully represent and respect them as tax payers and as citizens.

Blaming second homeowners for the high price of real estate is wrong. They are not responsible for the affordable housing situation. It is the neighborhood that we are in, and that is the Hamptons. Just go to the deli across from Town Hall where half of a tuna salad sandwich costs $6.

One compromise solution would be to allow homeowners to have an accessory apartment, rented as very affordable housing on one or two year leases. Part of the deal would be that the lucky tenant would also be the full-time on-Island contact. As an incentive, give this homeowner relief from any local short-term rental regulations. A win-win for everyone.

There are those who will object to such a compromise. The Island’s “moat mentality” has taken hold and paranoia strikes deep. The assumption that everyone who visits here for a weekend or a week is somehow out to raise hell or commit a crime is absurd. The Town Board should not entertain the idea that neighbors must know who is in your house, why and for how long. Our property rights and our right to privacy should be sacrosanct.

Our only industry is tourism and every other business here depends on it. When a visitor spends a weekend here, they might come back for a week or two. When they come back the next year, they might want to buy a home and be that second homeowner. Without this cycle in our economy, I doubt if this town could retain half of the current workforce.

So, when you see some second homeowners, stop and give them a hug. Let them know that they can legally vote here and thank them for investing in our town.
Shelter Island

Clean, affordable, competitive
To the Editor:
Although the energy of the wind has often been seen as destructive, the new technology of wind turbines has harnessed that force and used it to produce electricity. Compared to the traditional windmills of centuries past that produced mechanical energy, these new structures are tall, lean and sleek. Some are now visible at several sites along the North Fork and at many locations around the world where they are often clustered in “farms.”

Just recently, the state, in conjunction with LIPA, has approved what will become our nation’s largest offshore wind farm. It will be constructed about 30 miles southeast of Montauk and is being built by Deepwater Wind, which has just completed a smaller facility near Block Island.

Not only will these units produce a significant amount of cost-effective electricity, but it is renewable and sustainable, and will contribute to our economy for decades. Currently, approximately 4.7 percent of the electricity in the U.S. comes from wind, but, not surprisingly, China has taken the lead and now produces nearly 33 percent of the world’s wind generated electricity. This new technology is growing exponentially and offers great potential.

Not only is it “clean,” it has become increasingly more affordable and competitive with fossil fuels. Additionally, it will also create thousands of new jobs and benefit the planet.

Hopefully, the United States will take a greater leadership role in regard to the development and utilization of this promising and futuristic technology.
Shelter Island

Very good news
To the Editor:
Hurray! LIPA has approved the development of New York’s first, and the nation’s largest, offshore wind farm to be located off the East End of Long Island. The approved wind farm will produce enough clean energy to power over 50,000 homes.

With all that’s going on in the world, which is so difficult in these times, it’s wonderful to write in and share some very good news. We want to express our jubilation at the success of the wind farms that are coming to the East End. We commend the support and work that Governor Cuomo and many others have provided so that this project can begin.

This is a positive move to protect the planet and specifically, the East End. We are proud to be members of the nonprofit Renewable Energy Long Island, led by Gordian Raacke, which has worked tirelessly to help make this happen. Bravo!
Shelter Island

Welcome the immigrant
To the Editor:
We have all been inundated in the past few weeks with fear-fueled policies from the White House.

They have been thrown at us at such a rate that it’s hard to keep up. This is a deliberate and shameful strategy designed to cause disorientation, disarray and a permanent sense of suspicion and unease. The latest of these flurries of executive orders is a ban on refugees from seven predominately Muslim countries.

One of this past Sunday’s lectionary passages that many churches observed was Micah 6:8, which reminds us of our call to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God. Justice and kindness —and any sign of humility — are alarmingly absent in this president’s administration.

From a biblical perspective, God makes it very clear to God’s people that they are called to care for the foreigner.

Among the numerous statements that remind us of that expectation is Exodus 22:21: “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Loving the stranger is seldom an easy task. But we are called to hold one another accountable for acts of radical hospitality and kindness, especially to those who have been marginalized.

Friends, do not be seduced by fear. History has taught us that the darkest moments in the story of humanity are the ones governed by fear. We already have a strict vetting process for refugees. This ban is nothing less than a threat to the very fabric of our human decency.

So welcome the immigrant. Be generous to the foreigner. Give shelter to the refugee. Do justice. Love kindness.
Pastor, Shelter Island Presbyterian Church

Anti-abortion supporter
To the Editor:
“Life is winning again in America,” proclaimed Vice President Pence to a young and hopeful crowd in the shadow of the National Monument. Pence, the highest ranking public official to ever address a March for Life rally, cheered on the crowd with Kellyanne Conway, one of President Trump’s top aides and New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan. The annual protest gathered for the 44th year in opposition to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Hundreds of thousands of women joined just as many men for the trek down Constitution Avenue ending on the steps of the Supreme Court.

I was invited to attend by my alma mater, the Rutgers Catholic Student Association, when they reached out to our alumni group. For $20 we received a round-trip bus ticket from New Brunswick, tickets to the Youth Rally/Mass For Life at a packed Verizon Center, and a metro ticket from Union Station to Catholic University of America.
After the Mass For Life we left on foot toward the Washington Monument. Along the way many groups handed out a variety goodies for all.

The Knights of Columbus gave large green signs bearing “Choose Life” over their emblem, the Diocese of Washington gave out purple ones with the hashtag #iStand4Life, Students For Life handed out bilingual signs that read “I am the pro-life generation/ Yo soy la generaciaon pro vida” and street vendors sold “Babies Lives Matter” T-shirts.

Bagpipes were played, cheers were chanted and songs were sung by people of all ages who peacefully marched and danced together. This was one protest you could bring the whole family to as the youth were filled with joy and hope. We ended our pilgrimage in prayer at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It was absolutely wonderful to see so many of the youth of our great nation go out and do the right thing.

I leave you noting a survey released on June 30, 2016 by the Institute for Pro-Life Advancement showing that millennials are increasingly opposed to abortion despite not identifying as pro-life. In that study, 53 percent of 18-31 year olds said abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. We are the pro-life generation!
Shelter Island