Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor

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Just the facts
To the Editor:
As a representative of the North Ferry Company, I want to correct some factual errors in Richard Krause’s April letter, “Why Not Here,” in last week’s Reporter.

First: The ferry landing on Shelter Island is privately owned. Although New York State Route 114 has a right of easement on Heights-owned property on Shelter Island, the cost of maintaining the road is not funded by New York State taxpayers. The ferry landing in Greenport is owned by the MTA, and maintained by North Ferry.

Second: Starting three years ago, North Ferry introduced an electronic fare collection system that captures and timestamps transactions by vessel, deckhand and vehicle. This detailed data is used to provide census information to the Federal Department of Transportation every two years, which is mandated by law.

Third: North Ferry does employ the use of car counters. These devices provide statistics on vehicle traffic volumes that correlate to the number of vehicles captured by the electronic fare collection system.

The “huge amounts of cash” that Mr. Krause states that North Ferry collects is used to pay for salaries, benefits, insurance, boat and slip maintenance, as well as other operating expenses that continue to rise as with any other business or private household. The need for capital investments, such as a new vessel that will replace a ferry that is over 50 years old, new bulkheading and longer ramps to deal with rising tides, continues to grow.

North Ferry does not take its request of the Suffolk County Legislature for rate relief lightly. North Ferry presents its audited financials to Suffolk County and must demonstrate a need in order for the county to consider and grant rate relief.
Stella Lagudis
General Manager, Shelter Island Heights Property Owners Corporation

Must repeal
To the Editor:
Contrary to the spin that has been spun, the amendments to the short-term rental (STR) law make this already harsh law harsher.

The original criticism of the law was that there were existing laws to address noise and other alleged violations and there were few complaints. It’s my understanding that is still true. The arbitrary two-week period wholly ignored the reality of the life of families. Unlike the days past, which many seem to long for, economics and the fact of women working dictate the reality that renters rent for less than one week.

Comments made on their petition, in letters and at public hearings, showed that people were uncomfortable with these societal changes. They tried to stoke Island resentment by falsely claiming that renting second homes (which owners use throughout the year), and locals renting their homes during the summer, affected affordable housing.

The proposed law mandates that all homes rented for any period of time be registered. Each rental must have a valid certificate of occupancy. If you rent your home for any length of time, you must advise the town of the dates.

If you rent your home or allow people who are not your immediate family to stay in your home for fewer than 14 days, you must purchase a “Vacation Rental License.”

This license permits you to rent or allow friends to stay once every two weeks, if you are not there.

The “Hardship Exemption” only provides a waiver from paying for a license. This exemption provides that the owner cannot rent more than six times a year.

The insanity of the proposed law is revealed in the penalty provisions. After the first violation, fines and imprisonment for a term ranging from 15 to 90 days are imposed. The law outlines the following presumptions of unlawful renting: the town “learns” that you are not living there; utilities are not in your name; the home has been advertised; a person “admits” that they rent.

Neighbors are encouraged to lodge complaints with the newly created Town Enforcement Department — evoking the methods of the East German STASI.

We must repeal this law. Come to the hearing, Friday, May 3 at 4:45 p.m. at the school. Vote two of the architects of this law — Councilmen Shepherd and Colligan — out this November.
Michelle d’Arcambal
Shelter Island

Fair STR laws
To the Editor:
Re: The Town’s amended short-term rental regulations, I thought it fitting to comment on Sarah Maslin Nir’s article in The New York Times Monday (“Airbnb Backlash: Island Oasis Dreads Becoming Hamptons Hotbed”).

As an admirer of Ms. Nir’s journalism, I found this article to be a surprisingly unbalanced account of the issue on this Island. Ms. Nir only provides information and data from those with vested interests in Airbnb such as Island hosts and Airbnb’s corporate headquarters.

She neglects to mention, for example, that the majority of the Island supports fair STR laws and that the various neighborhood associations recently sent letters to that effect to the Town Board.

The major problem for the Island is the growing presence of commercial hosts who operate multiple properties full-time as business ventures, whether as individuals or corporations.

On a small island with an existing affordable housing problem, this type of commercial activity decreases the stock of desperately needed long-term residential rental properties and generally raises rents and house prices.

There are also a variety of quality of life issues — party weekends, parking, garbage — particularly in dense areas such as the Heights. And there is also the general concern for the entry of commercial activity and the accompanying loss of community among those who have chosen (and paid) to live in residential areas.

The revisions currently under consideration generously take into account the hardship considerations raised by opponents of regulation and hopefully will be passed and applauded.
Lily Hoffman
Shelter Island

Going nuclear
To the Editor:
The Reporter’s headline read: “Island’s short-term rental law will stand,” April 18”). The sub-headline read: “Federal court rules in town’s favor in STR case.”

Someone please enlighten me. Why do we now have the “Rental Law of the Town of Shelter Island,” Chapter 105 to the existing legislation. What happened to amending the original document?

This Chapter 105 is absolutely horrendous. Just the definitions alone are hilarious!

I especially like the description in the proposed amendment to the law of “Nuclear Family.” I have several friends who fit this description. I can’t wait to see them this summer and congratulate them on going “nuclear.”

I surely am behind the times. Does Hallmark have a card for such occasions or beings?

The “Good Neighbor Brochure” is mentioned. Guess what? The town has had this for years to let anyone renting or buying a house know what the ground rules are. I have used it for years with all of my summer rental packages. What is going on? Shelter Island has survived very nicely with short-term rentals for years.

Unfortunately, there were two incidents that I’m aware of that created this unfortunate law. Like the dark skies law and the “get the hell off my beach” law, the Island has turned into a police state.

I have read the decision from the court. What the headline says, is not exactly true. I suggest you read it. Fortunately there are many footnotes to help decipher this court ruling. If anyone knows of an online course for “Legalese 101,” please direct me to it.

From June 15 on there will be many people at my house, some we know, some we may not. Family affairs, fundraiser attendees, short-term renters, friends of someone in family — I need to register them or go to jail? That’s what I see in this addendum to the existing STR law.
Georgiana Ketcham
Shelter Island

Put on the brakes
To the Editor:
The Constitution of the United States is short, and pocket versions of it are inexpensive.

Constitutional Oath of Office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of ______, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Including a pledge of loyalty to the Town Code conflicts with and negates that oath.

I am not a lawyer, but believe successive Shelter Island Town Boards have proposed and/or passed unconstitutional laws. The addition of a “Severability clause” is a de facto admission that constitutionality was not considered in drafting whatever laws it has been included in. Over-burdened federal Courts don’t have time to become legislators, picking out which clauses pass constitutional muster.

The “Continuing Violations” clause combined with the “General Penalties for Violations” clause of the proposed short-term rental law threaten 15 days of jail time for the second day, and 30 days for each successive day, that alleged violations exist. That violates Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment prohibitions against excessive fines.

Another clause in the STR law is titled “Civil Action.” On the subject of “civil” actions: On February 20 the Supreme Court of the United States held unanimously that civil asset forfeiture laws are unconstitutional. The state, county and town should refrain from enforcing them and from making similar laws.

The case was: Supreme Court of the United States/Syllabus/Timbs v. Indiana/Case No. 17-1091/Argued November 28, 2018/Decided February 20, 2019. The ruling can be read in its entirety at: supremecourt.gov/opinions/18pdf/17-1091_5536.pdf.

The Supreme Court unanimously held that: “The Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause is an incorporated protection applicable to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause … The prohibition embodied in the Excessive Fines Clause carries forward protections found in sources from Magna Carta to the English Bill of Rights to state constitutions from the colonial era to the present day.”

This country has more of its citizens in jail than any other country in the world.

Let’s put the brakes on over-incarceration and try to become the free country that we tell the world we are.
Charles W. Jaeger
Shelter Island

Oath of office
To the Editor:
Exemptions to the STR code should not be based on primary residency, as currently proposed. Rather, exemptions must be based on a level of annual income for the property owner, no matter their residency status. A tax payer is a tax payer.

A second home owner might have the same economic needs as a full-time resident.

If the Town Board discriminates in this manner, then let’s prorate the property taxes for those who are weekenders and not taking 24/7 advantage of town services. Equal taxation should mean equal representation and equal application of law.

Our law makers will bend towards their voting constituents. Second home owners should know that in New York State, property owners can choose where they want to vote. They do not have to vote where they maintain their primary residence.

There are those who will deceptively try to dissuade second home owners from registering to vote on Shelter Island. We all have a legal right to be a voting tax paying constituent here. Check out this link:votewhereitcounts.org/downloads/VWIC_HANDOUT_ver01.pdf

So long as I am a law-abiding citizen, who is in my home, and for what reason, “ain’t nobody’s business but my own.” It is not my neighbor’s business or our government’s concern. We have a right to privacy.

The proposed code is intrusive and micromanages our property rights. It is based on unfounded fears by a few. We should not encourage such paranoia. STRs have not proven to be a public safety issue. Tourism is our primary industry. Limit rentals and you limit our fragile economy. Laws that cover noise and nuisance need to be strengthened and enforced.

This convoluted code will be a costly burden for everyone and a nightmare to implement. The proposed large fines and imprisonment for violations will likely result in trials and settlements at tax payer expense. Do we really need more unnecessary bureaucracy? It is a solution in search of a problem.

Our town government is not a home owner’s association. Whatever law the Town Board makes, it must be tempered by maintaining our freedoms and constitutional rights. Taxing us with fees and dictating how often and when we can rent unduly restricts our individual right to self-determination. The board’s oath of office to support the Constitution is not a mere technicality.
Vincent Novak
Shelter Island

Thanks to the League
To the Editor:
On behalf of Supervisor Gary Gerth and the entire Republican Committee, we would like to thank the League of Women Voters and the Ram’s Head Inn for hosting the annual State of the Town luncheon. It was a wonderful event and we would like to thank all the ladies who worked so hard to make this event a success.

The League of Women Voters’ mission is to educate their communities on policy issues and to encourage involvement in government. Lois B. Morris, as president of the Shelter Island chapter, has brought this mission statement to life. We thank the League for all their hard work, and we look forward to their sponsored debates on October 6.
Gary Blados
Chairman, Shelter Island Republican Committee

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