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Town Board focuses on short-term rental implementation

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Councilman Jim Colligan outlines news from Senator Kenneth LaValle's Environmental Roundtable.

Councilman Jim Colligan outlines news from Senator Kenneth LaValle’s Environmental Roundtable.

After almost a year of debate and hearings that led to adoption of a short-term rental (STR) law, the Town Board is working out enforcement measures.

This first season in which the law is in effect won’t likely reflect if changes are needed in the new legislation, according to Councilman Jim Colligan.

Mr. Colligan endorsed a trial with new software that Jeanette Flynn, who is secretary to most town committees, has vetted and found to be useful. Ms. Flynn has taken the lead in the use of technology by town committees since she was hired as clerk and secretary to the boards. She will oversee registration and enforcement of the new law, Mr. Colligan said.

The new software is meant to manage data on registrations and give Ms. Flynn the tools she needs in managing compliance with the new law.

Originally, Town Board members expected to be able to tweak the new legislation by the end of the summer season. But Mr. Colligan said it may take until the end of the summer of 2018 to judge the law’s effectiveness.

“I think it’s worth a shot,” Councilman Paul Shepherd said about using the new software.

Environmental roundtable

In an effort to keep Shelter Island on the front burner when it comes to addressing water quality issues, Mr. Colligan attended State Senator Kenneth LaValle’s (R-Port Jefferson) Environmental Roundtable in Riverhead last week.

He learned there are now 11 new septic systems that have been developed to replace aged cesspools that are leeching toxins into both well water and water surrounding Shelter Island.

Thanks to the development of so many prototypes, he speculated that the cost of the systems should continue to drop. As recently as two years ago, it was accepted that a new and efficient system could cost a homeowner as much as $30,000.

Within the last year, the estimate dropped to $15,000 to $17,000 and Mr. Colligan speculated costs could continue to drop.

At the same time, he encouraged his colleagues to think about requiring builders of new houses to install upgraded septic systems, something that has tended to be the norm anyway. But he also suggested the requirement should extend to homeowners whose building projects involve more than 50 percent of the original property.

It’s not the first time he has made that suggestion, but this time, he said he didn’t think there would be sufficient compliance without a requirement.

He also speculated that some grant money could be had to offset costs, but said that while Shelter Island is ahead of many other communities in its efforts to address septic issues, it would be important to act quickly before more communities gear up with programs to qualify for the funding.

Among other steps the town could take to improve water quality would be to use wood chips in ditches that lead to waterways. They have been found to stop nitrogen from seeping into the water, Mr. Colligan said.

He also learned that the state is also weighing using a substance called “methoprene” that would keep mosquitoes from reproducing. The substance is “moderately toxic” to fish and could affect elderly people and children, Mr. Colligan said.

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