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Comp Plan leaders seek visions of Island’s future: looking for Islanders’ wish lists


That’s the word of the moment for members of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee.

The members spent Monday evening reviewing suggestions from consultants about the upcoming April 22 workshop aimed at eliciting feedback from the public about a vision for the town’s future.

Consultants Peter Flinker of Dodson and Flinker and Larissa Brown of Larissa Brown & Associates outlined extensive information and charts to help leaders of small group discussions to elicit ideas from participants on a single question: Putting costs and other potentially limiting factors aside, what do people want Shelter Island to be in the future?

The aim is to get the public to help create a wish list, as member Meg Larsen summed up the feelings of many committee members.

Ms. Brown agreed, noting that the aim of the upcoming session is to understand what people want to see happen without bringing limits to the forefront.

All expect conflicting ideas to emerge, but they also expect some people, after listening to others, will temper their wish list, realizing their proposals won’t fly, Ms. Brown said.

There is concern among some committee members that they still need to hear from people not sufficiently represented among those who completed surveys, attended the initial workshop, or spoke individually with committee members.

That was particularly concerning to member John Kerr, who said he believed ideas emerging to date don’t sufficiently represent thoughts from workers, first responders and students. This is due, Mr. Kerr said, to some people not being comfortable using Zoom to access sessions.

“Who are we trying to plan Shelter Island for?” he asked.

Others just haven’t shown an interest in getting involved with helping to shape the Island’s future, committee member Lily Hoffman said. They might complain, but they don’t get involved.

As much work as the group has put in so far, all acknowledge there is still much to be done and greater efforts needed to reach out to people in those groups who haven’t been sufficiently represented to date.

In putting together her materials for Monday night’s meeting, Ms. Brown bolstered her ideas with specific quotes from people who completed the survey and/or attended the first workshop.

Committee member Sara Gordon said in speaking to some who participated in the first workshop, she found they expressed a wish that their small group conversations could continue. She suggested that a list of participants’ emails be provided so people could continue to speak with their group members and, perhaps, refine their thinking.

Committee member Ben Dyett said he doesn’t want to dismiss part-timers’ views. Part-time residents “are important to the community,” he said.

Mr. Flinker said of the more than 1,000 people who completed surveys, 500 identified as Islanders who spent at least nine months of the year in town and 512 identified themselves as part-timers.

In analyzing the information that came from the workshop, Mr. Flinker said there was general agreement about positive and negative aspects of living on Shelter Island.

People tended to agree there is a need to:

• Fix up the Center where there are several vacant commercial spaces.

• Enhance safety for walkers and bikers on town roads.

• Address problems with ticks and the deer on which they get their blood meals before infecting people.

• Providing a reliable public water supply throughout the Island.

• Improving Town Hall procedures by accepting credit cards and making digital permitting possible.

Other issues included possibly paying for EMTs.

As for the factors that make Shelter Island attractive, not surprisingly, beaches and water access were high on the list, Mr. Flinker said. The quality of life on the Island and a strong sense of community are important to many, he added.

On the other hand, weaknesses include a lack of affordable housing, absence of many year-round jobs, economic constraints and a sense that real estate interests tend to be focused on the second-home community. Public services need expansion and the reliance on private wells and often aged septic systems pose problems.

So too does a limited government that handles day-to-day issues, but has not focused enough on future development. 

Opportunities the public sees include green initiatives; the pursuit of affordable housing; improved communications with the government; and the possibility of hiring a town manager. Additional public services and facilities and building more bridges between various sectors of the community, including young and old and part-time and full-time residents could be improved.

Threats to attaining goals include changing environmental factors posed by climate change; tick-borne diseases; and a declining of the surrounding marine life.

Economics make for a growing affluent community that could make it harder for working class residents to stay on the Island. That includes a dominance of second homeowners and increasing efforts to build larger houses.

Others saw a loss of job opportunities, a decline in safety and security, the declining character of the Route 114 corridor and, for some, decreasing neighborliness that has been increasing the “not in my backyard” attitude about needs such as affordable housing.

Ms. Brown described drivers of change on the Island, including the character of the community, housing, the economy, increasing needs for transportation and control of increased seasonal traffic.

The committee planned to review the wealth of material the consultants provided and give feedback to Project Director Edward Hindin this week to help refine preparations for the April 22 workshop.

Some decisions will have to be made on timing of that workshop, now scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. Some thought it should start a bit later and others want a three-hour session instead of the two hours currently planned. 

They want to hear Islanders’ wish list