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Town Board moving on Comprehensive Plan, Site Plan Review; beach passes, traffic also on agenda

If it’s summer on Shelter Island, you wouldn’t lose a bet that the Town Board would discuss parking, beach passes or traffic. Other returning topics, including creating a site plan review process and a Comprehensive Plan, were also on the board’s virtual Tuesday work session agenda, but this time, on the latter two, it looks like it will be more than talk.

A lengthy discussion, which was left unresolved, was about “beach stickers,” or passes affixed to vehicles allowing free parking at the Island’s beaches.

It’s always been a simple procedure, allowing homeowners, or people with long-term leases, to get a pass for free. Passes also could be purchased by the day — now, no longer available because of precautions over COVID-19 — and weekly and monthly passes.

Proof for a free beach sticker is a lease, a property deed or a driver’s license or registration stating the holder is an Island resident.

Seeking to accommodate a person whose spouse lives elsewhere and has a car registered in that location, but wants their child living here to have a beach pass, led to a draft document prepared by Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. for consideration by the board.

The document says that members of a resident’s “immediate family” has a right to a pass, and defines that term as “a single spouse or domestic partner, parents, children and grandchildren (to include all minors under 21 years of age residing with the owner).”

Town Clerk Dorothy Ogar, whose office processes beach stickers, pushed back on several fronts, noting that it was unnecessarily complicating the issue and that the regulations shouldn’t be changed for “one person.” She suggested the person come to her office and discuss the situation.

The board wrestled with the new set of regulations and agreed to discuss the matter further at a later date.

Slowing it down

Councilman Jim Colligan said he’s been fielding multiple complaints from neighbors in Silver Beach of speeding on the roads, and people were concerned that an injury or worse was just a matter of time.

He suggested that portable battery-operated signs, seen on St. Mary’s Road, New York Avenue and other locations, which inform approaching motorists of their speed, will help. He also said many people were calling for a reduction of the speed limit.

Police Chief Jim Read said he would like to first consult with Highway Superintendent Brian Sherman. He also said that changing speed laws must go through the county and state, but was open to starting the process. The chief said the problem is not unique to Silver Beach, but can be an Island-wide problem.

He also suggested the Silver Beach Association look into purchasing the solar-powered, speed-marking signs, and some of the town-owned signs could be placed so the Association can glean data to determine if it’s worthwhile to purchase similar signs.

Med Center update

Mr. Colligan said that Dr. Josh Potter now has office hours at the Medical Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. Mr. Colligan also noted that resident Bill Friedman had contacted him to say there are 750 COVID-19 testing sites in the state, but none on the Island. There are more senior citizens — one of the most vulnerable demographics — here per capita than any other New York municipality.

Mr. Colligan said he’s discussed this with Dr. Potter, who was working through some “stumbling blocks,” but that he “was confident that in several weeks” there could be tests here on a limited basis.

Comprehensive Plan

Councilman Mike Bebon announced the kick-off of forming an advisory committee to weigh in on the Comprehensive Plan proposal that is in the works.

Site Plan Review

The board is having ongoing discussions to codify a site plan review process. This means setting up a review requiring all commercial property owners — and private home construction — to formally submit plans for development. Shelter Island is the only town on the East End lacking one. The review’s purpose is to, among other things, mitigate environmental impacts of new development on the land and water resources, and prevent overcrowding of land or buildings.

It surfaced several years ago (see story, page XX) but was never acted on. Tuesday, the board discussed how to apply the new law if passed, and how soon the board should be involved in the process after proposals for construction and reconstruction are presented to the Building Department. For Councilman Albert Dickson, that would be immediately.

Also in the discussion was the idea that, to allow an owner to get started developing a property, there would be temporary permits issued and then reviewed later for a permanent green light.

Bootleggers Alley

Residents Matthew Wells and Duke Foster joined the meeting to discuss the ongoing situation at Bootleggers Alley. Things have improved, they agreed, with far fewer visitors using the beach to fish and picnic. One reason is the schools of fish have moved away from the area. But there are still some problems, it was agreed, with the beach and shrubbery being used as toilets, even though the town installed portable toilets.

Chief Read said his department and the town have taken concerns seriously, and that new parking rules on Bootleggers Alley — instituted by executive order because of the pandemic — had helped, but more has to be done to restrict access to the sides of the road by non-residents. This will be addressed soon, either by another executive order, or when Gov. Cuomo’s state of emergency is lifted. The town will craft a plan to have in place when that occurs.