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Town Board discusses yard sale regulations

Just what are yard sales and does Shelter Island need a law to control them? Tuesday’s Town Board work session revealed there’s no agreement yet on a definition or proposed regulations. But before the board takes any action on legislation, residents will have the opportunity to weigh in, either by reviewing the proposed law being posted on the town website, or at a public hearing.

What’s clear is no one wants draconian regulations. But with no law on the books, anyone could run a business every day of the year from residences, said Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr.

He pointed out that if there is a law, there have to be consequences for violations so courts can act if anyone refuses to pay a fine. That’s why the proposal includes the possibility of a jail sentence.

At the same time, Mr. DeStefano said that before anyone would receive even a fine, police would issue a warning. Only if warnings were ignored would they issue a ticket for a violation, or take stronger measures if tickets were ignored.

In drafting the proposal, Mr. DeStefano said he tried be “as least onerous as possible.”

Such a law needs to be open and fair, Councilman Jim Colligan said, and simple as possible.

But Councilman Albert Dickson sees no need for a yard sale law.

Councilwoman Amber Brach-Williams said it would be wise to have a law. Supervisor Gerry Siller agreed.

What appears likely to emerge for discussion at a still-to-be scheduled public hearing is a law that would regulate, among other things, how often a resident can have a yard sale; opening and closing hours; parking and signage; registration with the town; and enforcement.

In other business: As the Town Board prepares discussion on the budget for 2021, Mr. Siller is looking for ways to cut spending by using money already available from sources other than new revenue from taxpayers.

Among these are mooring fees that go into  the Waterways Fund, which is managed by the town clerk but controlled by the Town Board. And money from the Community Preservation Fund (CPF), which is raised through a tax on new property buyers. That money is used for land preservation and up to 20% can be used for water quality improvement projects.

The board needs to determine how much money is already spent from those sources and how much is encumbered for future payments. Then it can determine how to allocate some of the CPF money for specific projects.

The Water Quality Improvement Projects Committee (WQI) started its work a few years ago, concentrating on providing grants to homeowners to upgrade their septic systems to nitrogen-lowering systems.

That was looked at as “low hanging fruit,” readily identifiable as a legitimate use of the funds. But since then, there has been concern about getting more bang for the buck by funding larger projects.

Those already promised the grants for individual upgraded systems will get the money, but it’s possible that more money might be put into nitrogen-reducing projects that could, for example, serve several major buildings in the Center.