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Friday’s reject becomes Tuesday’s beauty: Likely turnaround by Town board on building plan that appeared doomed

There may be a bit of irony that a revised site plan review process was voted into law unanimously March 26 that, among other changes, provides pre-conferences for applicants who are seeking special permits and variances for their projects with town officials.

A Shelter Island couple got caught in the previous process, which created problems with their application to replace a house on their site at 5 Charlie’s Lane with another house that under the proposal, infringes on the buffer between wetlands and buildings.

Gerry Gleich and Francesca Bang were portrayed at a Town Board work session by some officials as people who offered no concessions to their plans that the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) and Planning Board had recommended. In fact, Supervisor Gerry Siller said at Tuesday’s work session that, had the pre-conferences been active, the problems would not have resulted in those criticisms.

Architect Nicole Adams on Tuesday outlined changes she has already made in the plans since a March 26 meeting at which she and Daphne Vaughan of Surfside Environmental Planning accompanied Mr. Gleich and Ms. Bang.

Ms. Adams and Ms. Vaughan told the Town Board March 26 that all of their planning had been made so the new house would have a zero effect on the environment. But Tuesday, Ms. Adams noted that if she and the others had an opportunity for a pre-conference meeting when the project started, some choices made along the way might have been different before the project came so close to being scrapped.

The CAC had concluded after reviewing the application that a two-story structure would infringe on wetlands and there were ways to reposition the planned house to avoid that happening. But CAC members concluded the couple hadn’t offered any mitigating reasons to offset some of the decisions made.

“I thought this was going to be cheered,” Ms. Bang said Friday, explaining that every effort went into a plan that would put environmental concerns front and center. That includes plans for solar panels on the roof, an upgraded nitrogen-reducing septic system and plans to retain as many trees on the property as possible.

“We’re on the same team here,” Ms. Bang told the Town Board March 26.

The current structure on the property is a one-story boat house built in 1976 when Ms. Bang’s father bought the property. The house is small and what Mr. Gleich described as “basically a box.”

Two neighbors, Brad Tolkin and former Councilman Peter Reich, both favored granting the application on March 26. Mr. Tolkin had gone through his own struggles in 2014 when he wanted to build a large house with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms on his Charlie’s Lane property.

After hearing from the couple and their team members, Mr. Siller and others thanked the applicants for the efforts made over the weekend that included some repositioning of the house to sharply decrease the incursion into the wetlands buffer. It now appears the Town Board will approve the application for a special permit at an upcoming regular meeting.

Another project that raised questions at the March 26 meeting for the board and some neighbors, a property owned by Katie Ford and Tom Bishop at 10 South Ram Island Drive has undergone changes, according to Matt Sherman of Sherman Engineering and Consulting. He explained at Tuesday’s work session that an accessory building, which neighbors were concerned would add to water runoff problems on their lot, would involve some regrading, planting and dry wells to capture and redirect rainfall up to 4 inches from a single storm. The town code only requires that up to 2 inches had to be captured and redirected, Mr. Sherman said.

While issues that had been raised Friday by neighbors appear to have been dealt with between the parties, there is still an issue raised by Councilman Albert Dickson. He  voiced concerns over a planned room on the first floor of the accessory building that had been accepted as an office by the Suffolk County Board of Health Services and originally had a full bathroom that was scaled back to a half bathroom to ensure the room wouldn’t be used as a bedroom. Mr. Sherman agreed to a suggestion that the Zoning Board of Appeals be asked for an advisory opinion. If the ZBA says the question of that room meant to be an office is acceptable, it appears the Town Board will approve the permit. But if the ZBA said it would have to render a decision only after a full hearing, Mr. Sherman said he would scrap the room in order to not delay the project.

Supe buys a bus

A  town bus that was retired when a new vehicle replaced it has been on the market for quite awhile. It was advertised several times and attracted some interest, but ultimately no real purchase plans came forward.

The closest it came was someone when someone initially offered $3,500 for the vehicle, Mr. Siller said. But that, too, never moved forward. After checking with attorneys so it would be legal, Mr. Siller purchased the bus for $4,000 and said it will be used at his landscaping business.

On March 26, the Town Board took the following actions:

• Approved using up to $20,000 of money from the Water Quality Improvement Advisory Board — money sourced from 20% of Community Preservation Fund — for use in offsetting the cost of a study to determine water quality in Fresh Pond and remediation methods. The town received a $30,000 grant to pay part of the cost and the Fresh Pond Neighborhood Association is putting up $15,000 for the study.

• Adopted a resolution setting parking fees for nonresidents as follows: day passes, limited for use at Wades and Shell beaches, $25; weekly permits for any consecutive seven days at $70; monthly permits for any 31 consecutive days at $125; and seasonal permits between Memorial Day and Labor Day at $250.

• Set fees for seasonal boat storage at landings at $50 for a small boat such as a kayak or canoe; $100 for a medium boat such as a sunfish, laser or opti; and $150 for a large boat such as a multi-hull hobie cat. On Tuesday, the Town Board had a brief special meeting to amend the resolution to accommodate owners of moorings who may have a small tender used to take them to their moorings. The mooring fees would be discounted by $25 for the tender.

• Appointed Town Engineer Joe Finora as Storm Water Officer; Robert Kohn as a member of the Community Housing Board; and Tristan Wissemann at a FIT Center aide at the rate of $17 per hour.

• Accepted contributions totaling $400 in memory of Jeanne Moore and $250 in appreciation of the efforts to bring a COVID-19 pod to Shelter Island. The funds are to be used for Senior Center programs.