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This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


The Beatles released “All You Need Is Love” while the Doors’ “Light My Fire” climbed to the top of the pop charts.

Five weeks after Biafra broke away from Nigeria, the Nigerian Civil War broke out with the stronger Nigerian forces finally forcing the Biafrans to capitualte. Both sides saw massive loss of life and Nigeria sustained a heavy hit to its image as pictures of starving Biafrans were shown around the world.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King won Wimbledon beating Ann Jones of Britain while John Newcombe of Australia took the men’s title that year, beating Wilhelm Bungert of West Germany

“Funny Girl,”  which had opened at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City with Barbra Streisand in the title role, closed after 1,348 performances.

And on Shelter Island . . .


Eastern towns regain vote

It was hardly a perfect solution, but the five East End towns that had lost their votes in county government when the Supreme Court ordered that states reapportion themselves, had their representation on the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors restored. The towns had sued, and while the Supreme Court refused to directly hear their case, it did say a three-judge panel that had stripped the towns of their representation needed a ruling from a single judge.

The single judge who then took the issue  rendered an opinion giving each of the towns a representative on the County Board of Supervisors. Still pending was a battle to for the East End towns to form their own independent county government and it was speculated at the time that western towns might actually support the effort to have the eastern town secede.

POSTSCRIPT: The battle to create a separate Peconic County persists to this day  with speculation from time to time about why that might actually happen or continue to be hampered. But the Suffolk County Legislature that sprung from the County Board of Supervisors continues to cover the original county while East End officials continue to complain about inequities.


Furor at ZBA over Sullivan plan

William Sullivan, who created a 20-lot development on Big Ram, sought variances needed for the Osprey Beach and Yacht Club dock and float on Reel Point. Represented by marine contractor John Costello at a ZBA public hearing, initial comments favored the variances. But then Conservation Advisory Council member Heather Reylek argued that the proposal if granted would set a precedent for construction in other Shelter Island coastal barrier districts.

Long Island Regional Planning Board Chairman Lee Koppelman said the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers would have jurisdiction in the region.

Mr. Costello argued that all yacht clubs are in flood plains and that a previous yacht club had occupied the area.

“That was a different time with different rules,” ZBA member Sidney Stiber said.

POSTSCRIPT: Today, town officials and Peconic Land Trust representatives are wrestling with proposals to shore up Reel Point. None come cheap, but continuing routine dredging has proven inadequate to protect that spit of land that could totally erode if no action is taken.


County finds Manwaring well contamination

The year was 1997 and Suffolk County Department of Health Services reported finding alachlor, an herbicide used for control of grasses and weeds at levels three times above what would be safe for drinking at a well just south of Manwaring Road. The well was serving a number of rental houses and a restaurant and was disconnected. Instead, those venues were connected to a second well on the property that had not yet been tested. But Tom Martin, a Riverhead-based senior public health sanitarian with the Health Department, said if the second well proved to be tainted, carbon filters would be installed at the expense of the herbicide manufacturer to cleanse the water supply.

POSTSCRIPT: Today’s concerns are focused on increased of nitrogen in water and the problem persists throughout Suffolk County where 74 percent of homes and businesses are without sewer systems. The county has launched a major campaign to upgrade aged septic systems and the Island expects to move forward with its own grants to help homeowners defray the costs of installing new systems.


Beach issues dominate board discussion

Commercial beach use and parking were on the minds of residents and Town Board members 10 years ago. At issue was a debate over whether town stickers would be required only by June 15 or should be enforced as of Memorial Day weekend.

The Town Board was split on moving up the date, with some arguing mid-June was fine, while others said locals deserved access to beaches by Memorial Day and were being blocked by out-of-towners. After much debate, the date was moved to the Friday before Memorial Day.

Also at issue was use of beaches for weddings and other private parties. The debate centered on whether or not permits should be required for such events with proof that the events were insured.

POSTSCRIPT: The current debate 10 years later centers not on private parties, but commercial operations — currently  paddle boarding and  massage businesses are set up on the beach. While those operations have insurance, there are questions about a possible proliferation of such businesses and whether the town might have liability by permitting them and could face challenges if it permitted some, but not all applicants to operate there.

Stay tuned for a resolution as the debate continues.

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