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Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor



Think clearly on Novak purchase
To the Editor:
I have for a number of weeks read with great interest about the shifting arguments — pro and con — in using CPF funds to purchase the Novak property abutting Fresh Pond.

They seem to run the gamut. The purchase will provide access for the public; or provide access for equipment that might be used to dredge the pond (an unlikely event); or it might restore the pond so that those with memories of skimming the span of the pond with rope a la Tarzan can do so once again.

If Fresh Pond could be restored by purchasing this property, I don’t think any reasonable person would oppose the transaction. But there’s the rub. No one knows until a study is done — I understand there may be one in the works — if the purchase of this property will solve the problem.

Therefore, unless someone has made a competing offer to purchase the property — there doesn’t appear to be one on the scene, and I contend this should not matter in any event — the Town Board, which already has a recommendation from the assigned committee not to purchase the property, should heed the advice of this considered opinion. Moreover, and probably most importantly, nothing has to be done now.

The first order of business would seem to be to find out what should be done to restore the pond. Otherwise it’s like constructing a road without a map.

It should also be noted that sales on Shelter Island, from which the CPF fund is replenished with a 2-percent tax on such sales, are down about 30 percent in the second quarter of this year. The town should be concerned about this trend. It also should be concerned about nitrogen loading in our aquifer, which we’re told even with the new advanced septic systems may take another 10 years to show results.

Given all this, the town cannot afford to jump the gun and dash headlong and blindly into an uneducated decision with a guess or a hope and a prayer that this purchase will turn things around. It has better projects to tackle than this one, at least for the foreseeable future — like seeing to projects that would help protect the aquifer for starters.
Shelter Island

Unintended consequences
To the Editor:
As someone who attended the meeting on September 7 regarding the Novak property (“Deal or no deal,” September 13), I was quite dismayed that the Town Board at this early stage was so obviously leaning so heavily towards this misguided purchase. I was also dismayed that so many people were conflating this purchase with saving Fresh Pond, a broader and more important issue.

As has been amply demonstrated, the true cost of this proposal is significantly above the value of the land to be acquired regardless of whether some portion of the cost and work will be donated. The purchase as proposed would entail additional costs related to the removal of the house and the septic system, would require additional funds to make the property viable and accessible and would result in ongoing costs the extent of which could vary depending on how the parcel is utilized.

Before the board officially considers this purchase, all of these costs along with appropriate contingencies should be considered and set forth in a detailed plan and proposal that encompasses the purchase, the rehabilitation, the prospective design and ongoing use and maintenance of the property. It is irresponsible to consider such a purchase without presenting to the public such a detailed plan addressing the ultimate cost of the property, how such costs will be funded, what steps are necessary to make the property viable, how the property will ultimately be utilized, designed and maintained, and how public access to Fresh Pond will be enhanced.

Additionally, based upon what I heard, the board should also be considering other potential unintended consequences including legal challenges to the purchase from the neighbor and legal challenges regarding the use of CPF funds.

The public needs such a detailed plan and overview to appropriately understand and consider this proposed transaction.
Shelter Island

No connection
To the Editor:
As Shelter Islanders interested in the future of Fresh Pond, we attended the public hearing on the purchase of the Novak property on Friday September 8.

Over and above the issue of whether the Community Preservation Fund, with uncertain help from the Peconic Land Trust, should fund the purchase, we found that there was much confusion about what was being proposed and why.

First, there is no clear connection between buying the Novak property and what has to be the primary goal — the restoration of Fresh Pond so that once again it can be the beautiful and swimmable asset for this Island that it once was. How can we expend $750,000 before we have any plan as to how we are going to proceed with restoration, what it involves and what it is going to cost? Certainly, the elimination of one septic system will not do it.

At the meeting there was total agreement about the need to clean up Fresh Pond but it was not clear how purchasing the half-acre plot with a house already built there would contribute toward that goal, even though eliminating one septic system, recharging the aquifer from the half-acre and decreasing runoff from the half acre were all mentioned.

The fact that Shelter Island already owns two parcels totaling about 6 acres on Fresh Pond was scarcely mentioned except for a member of the home association commenting that the acreage we already own on the Pond had too many ticks and too much wet land (it is about half wetland).

These acres that we already own can be used as staging area once we know just how we are going to reclaim the pond and these hundreds of feet of pond frontage can also be used for enhanced public access. This is land that we already own. We don’t have to deplete our open land fund.
Shelter Island

Enforce the law
To the Editor:
At a public hearing in May, the Town Board approved revisions to the short-term rental (STR) law. In front of a standing-room-only crowd, they promised enforcement. Town Attorney Bob DeStefano, Jr. presented the revisions as much-needed clarifications that would make the law easier to comply with and easier to enforce, encouraging those on both sides of the STR fence.

This appears to be a smokescreen. Mr Gerth and Mr. DeStefano want to dismantle, not enforce, the STR law. So they’ve blocked enforcement with a sneaky combination of pseudo-legal arguments, public winks to offenders and foot-dragging on registering STRs and punishing violators.

STR officer Arthur Bloom’s job is to catalogue and register the more than 100 STRs on the Island (a number provided in a letter to the Reporter by Airbnb’s spokesperson). Why are only 18 registered when Airbnb and VRBO have dozens of listings offering stays less than 14 days? Indeed, the actual STR count on Shelter Island has risen in recent months. An intern with a laptop and the town tax map could easily locate them.

Instead, Mr. DeStefano and Mr. Bloom are tacitly encouraging STRs not to register, offering a loophole of their own making, promising STR’s with the “intent” not to rent for less than 14 days that they don’t have to register, even as those same STRs flout the 14-day rule in their online advertisements.

By not registering STRs that should be registered, complaints and violations are not tallied accurately.

Unsurprisingly, STR-law opponent Mr. DeStefano has also failed to impose legally required penalties on repeat offenders like the all-night party house in the Heights. This disadvantages those who do comply, and encourages additional offenses, like STR tax evasion, which hurts the county and town budgets we all depend upon.

Enforcement has been “shamforcement,” Mr. Gerth’s game to deny Islanders the real facts about STRs. As their actions indicate, Mr. Gerth’s and Mr. DeStefano’s promises to “improve” the STR law are a Trojan horse disguising their real plans.

Enough. Zoning laws protect property and the public safety. Citizens don’t get to cherry pick what laws to obey, and town officials don’t get to cherry pick what laws to enforce. STR shamforcement must stop.

Shelter Island

To the Editor:
While demonstrating the need for a proactive response to potential blue-green algae bloom threats in eastern Long Island waters, a worthwhile and urgent directive, Karl Grossman’s article (“A blooming disaster,” September 13), mischaracterizes the meaning of “impaired” when discussing the DEC’s classification of Dering Harbor.

As the former mayor of the Village of Dering Harbor and the village’s former liaison to the Town of Shelter Island’s MS4 committee (municipal storm water management), I am familiar with town’s efforts to remove Dering Harbor from the DEC’s “impaired” water bodies list.

The reader may infer from Mr. Grossman’s article that Dering Harbor’s “impairment” is 100 percent attributable to blue-green algae blooms. This is not the case as described in an exhaustive taxpayer-funded study commissioned by the town several years ago.

I have sent a letter from former town attorney, Laury Dowd, to the DEC, summarizing the town’s position and the village’s position. In addition to recreational boating traffic, migratory birds and potentially contaminated fish originating in other waters help the DEC to justify its position.
John T. Colby Jr.
Shelter Island
Editor’s note: The column that’s referenced stated that Dering Harbor had been deemed “‘impaired’ by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, although Shelter Island Town and Dering Harbor Village officials dispute that designation.”

No to a 9/11 holiday
To the Editor:
I am in disagreement with the suggestion in last week’s editorial to make 9/11 a national holiday.

By no means do I want to diminish the incredibly brave and heroic actions of the first responders on that day and during the weeks that followed. Should a first responder or family member who lost a loved one wish to take that day off to attend a memorial service, I hope their boss would compensate them for that day. But I don’t think the whole country should have off as a holiday for the following two reasons.

First, I feel a national holiday would give credit to and legitimize the horrendous actions the terrorists took against our great nation. Second, I think the day would slowly lose its meaning to commercialism the way Memorial Day and Veterans Day have. I would cringe to see this paper full of ads with balloons and banners for companies trying to sell appliances and cars with their big Patriot’s Day sales.

Let’s keep 9/11 a day for personal reflection of the most somber day in our country’s history and not another excuse to have a day off and party on the beach or sell cars.
Shelter Island