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Town Board work session discusses future of businesses

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, members were moving beyond the stark, first few weeks of the pandemic’s effect on the Island toward other business.

Talking about changes to the town’s website, Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams said, “It’s a shift away from COVID all the time, to some of the time.”

But still, the board addressed issues left in the wake of shutting down the Island. Supervisor Gerry Siller and Police Chief Jim Read, the town’s emergency management coordinator, said they had fielded concerns from local businesses on starting back up again when Governor Andrew Cuomo gives the order. Businesses opening up will be in phases, and the town will abide by the direction coming from Albany, Mr. Siller said.

“The safety of the community is at the top,” Chief Read said about the priorities for opening the town. “Business comes after that.” But he said officials were making sure business owners’ ideas, and all concerns, complaints and information specifically from the Island, were communicated to county and state officials.

The ferry companies have made clear that, with ridership down, their revenue has dropped significantly. One source of funds this time of year is from contractors and landscapers, who would normally be on round trips daily, but many are closed down.

Mr. Siller said people often forget the ferry companies are businesses. The companies ask, “’What do we do?’” Mr. Siller said, and one answer could be “to operate at less capacity than usual.”

Chief Read was meeting with owners of the Islander and SALT restaurants to talk about outside dining. Social distancing will have to be strictly adhered to, the chief said. Officers had spoken with three businesses last weekend about patrons being seated too close together. Normally, officers’ responses have been “complaint driven,” but now they were keeping an eye out for those breaking the rules and endangering public safety.

Ms. Brach-Williams said that East End town and village officials want to have one rule and timeline for fully opening public beaches. If not, a beach that is open in one town, while others are closed, will likely be overrun by visitors.

Master Plan

Councilman Mike Bebon and Planning Board member Edward Hindin have drafted a roadmap to update the town’s Comprehensive Plan. A municipality’s Comprehensive Plan dictates policy on several fronts, including development, land use, transportation and housing. In 1994, a Comprehensive Plan was adopted by a Town Board resolution. A seven-month effort of discussion and research in 2008 produced an update to that plan, but the board rejected it.

Now, Mr. Hindin, a former licensed professional planner, who has worked in two municipalities creating comprehensive plans, has helped put a draft plan together. The idea is to update the 1994 plan, and make it work. A presentation and discussion will be aired at next week’s work session, Mr. Bebon said.


Councilman Mike Bebon urged all Islanders to provide information to the national census. Since the census doesn’t mail forms to post office boxes — the only available mail delivery on the Island — Mr. Bebon advised filing online or over the phone. He stressed the importance that Shelter Island’s population be counted, since federal funds, along with state and local representation, depends on an accurate count of the population.

The Island has “lagged” behind, Mr. Bebon said, noting that the response rate in the state has been 48.5%; the 1st Congressional District has been 48.7%; but Shelter Island’s response has been 6.4%.

Online or over-the-phone filing takes about 15 minutes, the councilman said, and only one member of each household is required to submit information. To file online, go to my2020census.gov and for phone submissions call 844-330-2020 for English speakers and 844-468-2020 for Spanish speakers.

Med Center

The Medical Center was scheduled to open on May 15. “But that date might be up in the air,” Councilman Jim Colligan said. Dr. Peter Kelt, however, has office hours in the building. New patients call 516 399-1462. Existing patients call 631 749-3149

Physician Assistant John Reilly is making house calls; they can be scheduled by calling 631-537-1892.