Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor: Oct. 1

Transparency, again

To the Editor:

Letters to the Editor and columns have understandably raised concerns about the lack of transparency with which the Town Board is operating and the wisdom of its actions (for example, with respect to its 150% increase in licensing fees, its tightening control over committees and boards, and its embarking on rezoning without allowing the Comprehensive Plan effort that it initiated to run its course).

In addition, the Board and the Town Attorney, despite having been recently called out for violating the Town Code by having a Board member on the Community Housing Board, now seeks the power to award water quality improvement grants for upgraded septic systems in apparent violation of state law.

The four-page small-type legal notice starting on page 28 of the Reporter’s Sept. 16, 2021 issue includes a proposal to amend the Town Code to require the installation of an upgraded (I/A) system under various circumstances, including new residential construction.

Although acknowledging that the required installation of such a system renders the owner ineligible to receive a grant, the proposed amendment creates various exceptions to that ineligibility, including if the Board determines that the grant will result in a substantial public benefit.

However laudable the Board’s intentions (to promote affordable housing or otherwise), this attempt to access WQI funds appears to violate New York State Town Law Sec. 64-e 1.(e), which defines a “water quality improvement project” to exclude “[p]rojects which have as a purpose to permit or accommodate new growth.”

If the Board is concerned that it is acting legally, it should not adopt this amendment, as scheduled, at its October 1, 2021 meeting without a well-supported legal opinion that the provision does not violate the Town Law.

In light of Assemblyman Thiele’s pursuit of audits of CPF funds, 20% of which are dedicated to water quality improvement projects, it is imperative that these funds not be used illegally for an purpose not allowed by the Town Law.

STEPHEN JACOBS, Shelter Island

A huge mistake

To the Editor:

Ready. Fire. Aim. Unfortunately, that seems to be the path the Town is taking in terms of across-the-board modifications to zoning requirements and the possible creation of spot zoning. 

This is a huge mistake on many levels and Shelter Island residents need to be aware and strongly push back to protect the sanctity of double AA zoning and the potential negative outcomes on our fragile environment. 

Residents need to ask and get answers to why this is being considered.

First, from a strategic perspective, why would the Town think a major change to zoning would be appropriate before the adoption of a Comprehensive Plan that sets forth the direction, vision and the most important initiatives the Town must address moving forward? It truly is backwards and not a best practice to act without a current Comprehensive Plan. Ready, Fire, Aim.

Second, why now?  What is the imperative that is driving the need for a major change to zoning without the necessary context of a Comprehensive Plan? I am sure there are worthwhile tweaks and efficiencies that can occur, but quickly moving to spot zoning and across-the-board modifications is not the answer.

Third, why would the Town make wholesale change that diminishes its capacity for review and limits its leverage to negotiate on a case by case basis? Why abandon this leverage?

The intended and potential unintended consequences of the zoning proposals require significantly more transparency, scrutiny and public debate. Homeowners and the local homeowner associations need to be brought into any discussions.

And any changes to zoning should be done slowly, openly and deliberately.

BILL MASTRO, Shelter Island

Please wait

To the Editor:

In response to Richard Krause’s letter of September 23, I am also worried about tragedy due to head-on vehicle collisions or to vehicles hitting pedestrians and cyclists. 

I would like to reiterate what I stated in my Letter to the Editor published in July 2020. I drive, walk, run and ride my bike on Shelter Island. I would like to see protected lanes for walkers and cyclists, but that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Mr. Krause’s letter illustrates that “Share the Road” is not a clear instruction for vehicles, as he states that vehicles are risking head-on collisions in order to give adequate space to walkers, runners and cyclists. 

There is a simple and logical way for drivers to avoid head-on collisions. The driver who comes up behind me when I am running, walking or cycling should wait to pass me until there is full visibility of potential oncoming traffic. Yes, that driver might have to wait to have the visibility, and I might be a slow runner … but that’s a much better alternative than a head-on collision. And it’s not realistic to prohibit walkers, runners and cyclists on a vital road, any more so than prohibiting motorized vehicles. 

This island needs signage visible to cars exiting the North and South ferries and perhaps other locations such as the Ram Island causeways, with a diagram and text that explains this to motorists, explicitly describing what it means to responsibly “share the road” — to not put themselves at risk of head-on collision, nor put the cyclist or pedestrian at risk — to wait until there is visibility to pass. 

I would be happy to help with an effort to create and display such signage, or to research whether this exists elsewhere and could be adapted to our island’s needs.

NATASHA STOWE, Shelter Island

Candidate forum

To the Editor:

The 2021 Candidate Forum is happening this weekend. Unfortunately, COVID restrictions to public gatherings have eliminated our ability – and how we’ve tried! — to present the candidates to you live and in person.

The five candidates in the Town Council races (running for two seats for four years, one seat for two years) and the two for the Town Clerk race will be recorded on Zoom on Saturday, Oct. 2. Everybody with access to local Channel 22 or to a computer will be able to watch it by October 4. When it posts, you can access it directly from the town website: shelterislandtown.us. Look for the link on the homepage. Or search Sea TV YouTube and scroll through the videos.

As always, we seek questions from the public. Send them via email before 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1, in time for us to review them for appropriateness. The moderator will present them to the candidates if time permits. Send them to: [email protected]. The moderator will not mention your name. 

Time remains, though not much, to register to vote (must be received by Oct. 8) or to change your address (by Oct. 13). Requests for absentee ballots must be received by Oct. 18. You can accomplish all these tasks immediately online at suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/BOE/. 

Remember, vote on or by November 2.  There will be no early voting on Shelter Island. But you can cast your Shelter Island vote in other Suffolk County towns Oct. 23-31. See Early Voting Sites on the Board of Elections website for locations and hours.

Thanks for watching. 

LOIS B. MORRIS, League of Women Voters

GORDON GOODING, Shelter Island Association