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This week in Shelter Island history

Old, open book with a damaged cover.


Actress Mira Sorvino was born in Tenafly, New Jersey.

American singer and actress Moon Unit Zappa was born in New York City.

Pairs figure skater Jason Dungjen was born in Detroit and went to skate with Kyoka Ina, winning United States Championships in 1997 and 1998 before retiring, but then returning to skate with Yuka Sato in the Stars on Ice tour.

President Lyndon Johnson took advantage of a Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony to boost his unpopular and flagging Vietnam policy while presenting the medal to Sergeant David Dolby, credited with saving many of his fellow soldiers during a fire fight against the North Vietnamese.

And on Shelter Island . . .


Zip codes reach the Island

Late September 1967 was a momentous year for residents here as they began receiving kits from the Post Office that would allow them to register and be assigned a ZIP code. Residents would fill cards and return them to the Post Office so they could be assigned ZIP codes.

POSTSCRIPT: Fast forward 50 years and Islanders may be wondering where the system went wrong. In recent years, there have been difficulties getting some mail, often because mailing lists compiled and shared among companies, don’t always recognize Shelter Island ZIP codes.

Some have been told the ZIP code is in East Hampton. Others seem to have difficulty getting mail order prescriptions and other packages because if they live in the Heights, the order forms they fill don’t provide space for the Heights listing.

Postmasters in the Center and the Heights have done their best to send letters and packages back and forth between them when they recognize the problem, but that doesn’t change all ongoing problems.


Supervisor, attorney weigh comprehensive plan

Fall of 1987 brought concerns about whether the Island should develop a comprehensive plan to map out future development. Such plans then were a new concept, but other East End towns had started implementing them to control future growth.

Helen Rosenblum was town attorney at the time and argued that Islanders would resist a master plan. In the mid 1970s, the county had drafted such a plan for the Island and it was filled with regulations that irritated residents here, she said. Jeffrey Simes was supervisor in the late 1980s and suggested that residents might be more open to such a plan with the passage of time.

POSTSCRIPT: Today, the town has a comprehensive plan, but it gets little attention. Only now that the Community Housing Board is exploring ways to provide workforce housing do residents hear references to looking at that master plan to see if it can provide some guidelines for the development of housing to accommodate those who work here, but can’t afford the escalating price of real estate.

The jury is still out, but going forward, there may be more reference to what could work here in the future.


Tower deal nixed

Twenty years ago, a proposal from NEXTEL to install radio antennas in an AA residential zone in the Heights was denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Heights Property Owners Corporation had entered into a contract with NEXTEL to install commercial antennas on the water tower on  Prospect Avenue.

The ZBA determined NEXTEL lacked the necessary criteria for a use variance and failed to prove the antennas were vital to Shelter Island residents. NEXTEL would have had to prove a hardship to win a use variance.

POSTSCRIPT: Pending before the Town Board will be a special permit application for Elite Towers to erect a tower at the Manhanset Firehouse on Cobbetts Lane and a second application will be for 120-foot tower at the Center Firehouse, doubling the height of the current tower.

The Manhanset tower application was slowed when it was sent to the ZBA initially, then before the ZBA could act on an area variance, it became obvious that the Town Board needed to first act on the special permit request.

Communications problems have been difficult at the Center Firehouse and studies have determined that a higher tower would be necessary to receive signals there.


Highway purchases remain hot topic

The Town Board was embarking on budget talks for the 2008 spending plan at this time in 2007, and among the major debates was how much to spend and what to buy for the Highway Department.

At issue at the time was a backup generator needed for the highway barn and the debate between Councilman Peter Reich and Supervisor Al Kilb Jr. was over the size of the generator needed. Mr. Kilb was recommending a 1280 kw 269 hp generator that would provide 525 amps. Mr. Reich argued that the recommendation was more than what was needed. Only about 30 amps would be needed on any given day, he said.

POSTSCRIPT: As the Town Board is about to embark on budget talks next week for the 2018 budget, needs of the Highway Department will again be on the table. Superintendent of Highways Jay Card Jr. has long been seeking to establish a capital budget to care for the town’s assets and had more luck in the current year with a less recalcitrant Town Board that agreed to borrow funds that would be replenished with grant money.

But every year, the effort to keep taxes low while meeting requests for funding is a major debate topic. Stay tuned.

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