Codger column: Sort of right, totally wrong?

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO | Codger at home with Crone (Lois B. Morris) and Cur (Milo) at their West Neck Road home.
CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO | Codger at home with Crone (Lois B. Morris) and Cur (Milo) 0n West Neck Road.

After that last Rant-A-Palooza at the school auditorium, Codger began to rethink the short-term rental (STR) issue. He had written here that STRs should be allowed if coupled with strict quality of life regulations. A code enforcer would log violations and levy fines.

But after observing the flabby enforcement of the three-minute rule for speeches at the hearing, Codger lost confidence in town officials implementing their own rules.

Or even getting to the heart of the matter. Are there party houses on the Island and is there a mechanism for shutting them down? Are houses being sold, built or renovated to be stealth hotels? If so, how can they be identified and regulated? Do the police keep track of complaints? Just how important are the here-and-gones to the Island’s economy? The lack of hard data seems almost willful.

In any case, the Town Board has voted on the new regulations. It will be interesting to hear Jim Dougherty on Sunday at the League of Women Voters’ annual State of the Town luncheon at the Ram’s Head. The supervisor has lately been the board’s only voice of compromise.

Airing the issue has underlined economic divisions and the disparities among what Shelter Island represents to residents. Is this an all-year Island of people who live, work and send their children to school here, or a weekend and summer playground for people who mostly live elsewhere?

Even within that most simplistic of separations, there are richer and there are needier, there are people who could use the boost of another income, there are those aggravated by the comings and goings of undocumented vacationers and those whose businesses are dependent on those vacationers.

Among those at the hearing who said, often with compelling passion, that they could only stay in their homes by renting were a struggling substitute teacher, the main support of her husband and three children, and a celebrated writer for The New Yorker magazine with a well-received new memoir. Go categorize them.

Among those supporting the new draft law decreeing that rentals be for no less than two weeks, were those who feared that the Island — or at least their neighborhoods — were in danger of becoming a hive of fly-by-nights and those simply in denial that this is, after all, a resort Island, not just their last resort.

Codger finds himself sympathetic enough to most sides of the issue that he wonders if they are irreconcilable. If everyone is sort of right, how can anyone be totally wrong? Maybe a new approach is necessary. Instead of trying to regulate what we consider undesirable behavior, maybe we should concentrate on keeping undesirable people off the Island or at least people who annoy us, who disrupt our sense of who we are and where we are.

For starters, Codger would ban all off-Island bicycle riders, from those wobbling and grunting along West Neck Road to the noisy flocks of colorful “spandexters” riding two and three abreast. (Exceptions will be made, of course, for workers pedaling to jobs created by local construction and yardwork companies.)

Families with small children seeking rentals of any durations will be turned away. Codger’s dog, Cur, concurs. Memorial Day is coming up fast, which means their wonderful walks on Wades Beach will be over for three months to keep the sand free for those howling, digging, pooping little two-legged animals.

No writers, artists, musicians, please. Shelter Island has enough such to fill the library’s Friday Night Dialogues forever. Moreover, as we have seen over the years, from Greenwich Village to Williamsburg, the artists are soon outpriced by the finance bros and other yuppies.

Location scouts are verboten. It’s well known that in areas like New York City, which are officially hostile to STRs, the TV and movie industry moves in to dump cash in the vacuum. One reason that Codger, Crone and Cur sold their second home in Manhattan was the relentless incursion of casts and crews.

Do you think a convoy of tin can dressing rooms, remote studios and chow halls, not to mention Porta Pottys, would be an addition to Nostrand Parkway or North Cartwright?

An extreme vetting process shouldn’t be too difficult with water marshals on the ferries and a few extra bay constables to monitor boats and seaplanes trying to smuggle people ashore, especially near Sunset Beach, which is fast becoming one of those Hamptons/Jersey Shore hotspots that generate caterwauling and Ubers. If the Town Board frames the requests cleverly enough, it could probably cover costs with Homeland Security grants.

Codger understands that the ongoing ire over this issue will lead some to believe that he is not taking it seriously enough. You’re banned, too.