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Comprehensive Plan back on track: Seven-month hiatus to give way to new start

Seven months after the Comprehensive Plan process crashed in controversy, Town Supervisor Gerry Siller announced plans to reconstitute a task force that had been led by Project Manager Edward Hindin and former councilman Mike Bebon.

The task force will be led by newly minted Councilwomen Meg Larsen and BJ Ianfolla and Planning Board member and Building Inspector Reed Karen. Ms. Larsen had been a member of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Board, one of a dozen residents. The aim was to create a working group of people who could ensure views reflected people from as many Town residents as possible.

For months, the task force and Advisory Board had worked with professional consultants to begin to shape an updated Comprehensive Plan that would inform future legislation and not be merely a report that was ignored and left on a shelf.

After a number of months of seeming to work well, a June meeting dissolved into angry confrontations and subsequent resignations, including Mr. Hindin’s, along with Mr. Bebon resigning from the Town Board and all his responsibilities in Town business, including the task force.

What’s known is many of the former Advisory Board members want to continue their work. What’s not known is whether the consultants who had been hired to assist the group will be brought back. Mr. Siller said Tuesday that hasn’t yet been decided.

Municipal Wastewater Study

Another public meeting is to occur, likely at the Jan. 11 Town Board work session, at which members of various committees and the public will be invited to hear from Town Engineer Joe Finora to recap the report submitted by Massachusetts-based consultants, Lombardo Associates.

The report initially raised questions in December, when professional engineer Pio Lombardo outlined the findings of his group, which recommended that a treatment system for nitrates in the water in several Center buildings should be located underground at Klenawicus Airfield. That raised questions from airfield neighbors and is likely to be the key issue discussed at the next public session.

Committee chair members to meet

Mr. Siller expects to meet with those leading Town committees and boards to discuss their concerns. That meeting, expected to be public, could take place early next week.

Wanted: Candidates for town attorney

No, Bob DeStefano Jr. isn’t resigning and is likely to reapply to continue to serve the Town as attorney. But following best practices, Mr. Siller said he has been advised that the Town Board should open the job after a two-year term, which hasn’t happened since Mr. DeStefano was appointed by former supervisor Gary Gerth in 2017. Mr. DeStefano was retained by Mr. Siller when the current supervisor was first elected in 2019.

Moorings still in limbo

All Town Board members want to see Aandrea Carter receive the approval to transfer moorings in Coecles Harbor that have long served the Ram’s Head Inn. But they’re still blocked in terms of the Town Code, which doesn’t provide a provision for transferring moorings from James and Linda Eklund, who previously owned the Inn, to Ms. Carter.

Ms. Ianfolla suggested the code should be changed to grandfather in such transfers, which will affect the Inn and those moorings that have long been the property of Mike and Camille Anglin, who sold Jack’s Marine to the Soloviev Group.

It would make sense to allow transfer to new business owners where the moorings were a critical part of a business, but that’s not how the Code currently reads.

Residency appeared to be the problem, since Ms. Carter was not a town resident. She has recently purchased a house at 2 South Ram Island Drive adjacent to the Inn, but the residency didn’t remove the problem since she would have had to be a town resident for at least six months.

Mr. DeStefano said residency shouldn’t apply to commercial moorings, but language needs to be resolved to clarify what should be able to happen with those moorings.

The problem is that tresidency was one of many definitions the Town Board was trying to clarify in its code, which hit a roadblock when residents at a public hearing said the list of changes of definitions were too extensive and needed more discussion.

Changes in meeting practices

Ms. Ianfolla suggested changes to work session procedures, which she said are now impeding progress. She wants to hear from the public, but said allowing public discourse at work sessions interrupting Town Board member’s discussions is inefficient. She suggested public questions and comments should be heard at the end of a work session. But asking residents to wait an hour or more before they could get their questions answered isn’t practical either, Councilman Jim Colligan said.

It’s likely the Board will further explore ways to keep work on track while affording the public access to have their comments heard and their questions answered.

Resolving assessors organization

Since the recent resignation of Craig Wood as a town assessor, there’s a need to resolve how to handle this year’s assessment with only two instead of three assessors. Mr. Silller asked Ms. Ianfolla, a former assessor, to assist in meeting with the remaining assessors to determine how to proceed, which will require more work and appropriate compensation for the two remaining assessors.

That could involve not reassessing all properties this year, which has been the practice for years. But it also could lead to changes in the department itself by appointing instead of electing assessors in the future, Mr. Siller said.

Airfield update

Mr. Colligan reported on a visit to the Klenawicus Airfield made Tuesday morning. He said metals that had been dumped in the area had been removed, but there’s still a need to remove fallen limbs and other debris.

Neighbor John Kerr said it wasn’t just the debris in surrounding bushes at the site that were of concern. Practices by some pilots using the airfield are concerning. The Town plans to set up a meeting with the Shelter Island Pilots Association and the neighbors to resolve issues.

Organizational meeting

The Tuesday session started with swearing in of those officials elected to office in November. Justice Mary-Faith Westervelt led the officials through the process of taking their oaths of office.

A complete list of resolutions appears on the Town website at shelterislandtown.us.