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Town Board meeting on shoreline changes is ‘contentious’: Marijuana limits, beach smoking draw no comments

Despite an effort to delay approval of the shoreline access recommendations initially affecting eight of the most troubled sites around the Island, the Town Board voted 4-1 to change parking regulations at beaches and landings.

But before any vote, a public hearing brought resident Bob Kohn to the forefront, initially promising his words wouldn’t be “contentious,” until they were. He and Supervisor Gerry Siller had something of a war of words as Mr. Kohn insisted the new regulations eliminated an entire section that previously banned use of town beaches to nonresidents. He acknowledged the ban had not been enforced, but said now it has been eliminated.

Mr. Siller countered that the changes dealt with parking, not beach use.

Mr. Kohn said there has been a lack of transparency about the changes, while Mr. Siller pointed to many open meetings with a lot of public input in the course of arriving at the suggestions.

Councilman Jim Colligan jumped in, saying clearly-planned changes have been “a fairly contentious topic,” adding that it’s time to give them a chance to succeed or fail.

“We’ll learn,” the councilman said. “You learn as you go.”

That didn’t calm Mr. Kohn or the supervisor.

Mr. Kohn maintained there was no transparency revealing that the sections of the existing law dealing with who is or isn’t a resident with rights to use the beaches had been scrapped.

“I’m a thick-headed idiot,” Mr. Siller said.

“You said it,” Mr. Kohn shot back.

Mr. Siller called an end to the public hearing, which preceded the vote, but when the vote came, it was Councilman Albert Dickson who asked to be heard.

He has been a strong proponent of public access to the water and has continually called for not creating parking restrictions for vehicles that lack permits near the water.

“The restrictions represent the onset of exclusivity,” Mr. Dickson said. He called it “a sad day for Shelter Island.”

“We’re trying to do the best we can with a bad situation,” Mr. Siller said.

Mr. Dickson cast a “no” vote on the resolution, saying it’s a step toward the town becoming a gated community.

Town opts out

It was a unanimous vote by all five members of the Town Board to opt out of a state law allowing marijuana dispensaries and marijuana cafes to operate on the Island.

“It’s not our place to decide for the town,” Mr. Siller said, explaining that if about 100 people petition within 30 days for a public referendum, the question will be on the ballot in November.

Originally, it appeared all five East End town leaders favored opting out, Mr. Siller said. That changed when Southampton realized the Shinnecock Tribe were opting in, resulting in the tribe benefiting from profits while the town would not. The same situation with a different tribe exists in Brookhaven, Mr. Siller said.

He called it “a no-brainer” to opt out at this stage and learn from the experiences of other communities. Shelter Island can opt in at a later date. But had it chosen to opt in now, it could not reverse that decision.

Smoking marijuana is legal throughout the state, Mr. Siller noted. But the Town Board endorsed a ban on smoking marijuana, cigarettes, hemp or any product on town bathing beaches, concerned that families with young children would likely not want smoking near them.

There were no public comments on either of those two resolutions that passed unanimously.

In other actions, the Town Board:

• Delayed action on a proposal to pay $5,950 from the Water Quality Improvements Advisory Board (WQI) to support the Peconic Estuary Partnership. That’s because the WQI hasn’t had an opportunity to weigh in on the allocation.

• Authorized the Police Department to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of residents and visitors attending the 10K Run/5K Walk on June 19. The action was motivated by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and “other national events that have illustrated similar dangers.”

• Approved Rideshore LLC operated by John Eicher to operate a tender service from anchored vessels to Crescent Beach.

• Approved the Shelter Island Historical Society for a permit to offer a musical/play on July 23, 24, and 25 with a rain date of July 31 through Aug. 1.

• Approved a July 10 private catered dinner party at Wades Beach requested by resident Rachel King with the understanding that the beach can still be used by the public.

• Approved the reappointment of Marc Wein to the Deer & Tick Committee for a term that will expire on June 24, 2024.

• Approved the reappointment of Tim Purtell to the Green Options Committee with a term expiring on May 10, 2024.

• Appointed Miles Wilson to the Board of Directors of the West Neck Water District at the recommendation of the existing West Neck Board.