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Development rights study is preliminary: Town Board has reached no decision

The author of a letter written to the Town Board on behalf of Shelter Islanders for Clean Water and Responsible Zoning raised some questions at the April 12 Town Board work session about whether it’s necessary to create a Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) system that he feared could be used by a developer to build unwanted market-value housing on sites around the Island.

Town Attorney Stephen Kiely had earlier explained how eight of 10 Suffolk County towns use TDRs, while ensuring the reason Shelter Island was looking to become the ninth was strictly to strip such rights from preserved properties where construction couldn’t happen, to sites where more affordables could be built.

But no decision has yet been reached by the Town Board about whether to employ TDRs, Mr. Kiely said. The idea is being explored. One step in that exploration is a request for proposals from consultants to do a full environmental study of the Island and determine the impact of greater density and/or septic increases in some areas.

The environmental study would be exhaustive and there would be public hearings throughout the Town Board’s assessment of using TDRs before a system could be implemented, the attorney said.

Having the system in the tool box would make the process of creating affordable housing more efficient, Mr. Kiely said. At the same time, if TDRs are implemented, they would not increase overall density in the town or overall ability to handle sewage, he said.

For those who wonder if no affordables could be built without TDRs, the attorney said that’s not the case. Councilwoman Meg Larsen described it as taking rights from sensitive areas purchased with Community Preservation Funds for passive use and applying them to more robust areas that could handle greater use.

The Planning Board would likely be charged with site plan review of any affordable housing project and there would still be a need to demonstrate projects are environmentally sound. Using the current floating zone without a TDR system would require review of each project separately, Mr. Kiely said. If the Town develops a TDR system, the County Health Department would have to approve it.

Floating zones created under original legislation dealing with affordables are another tool, but using TDRs creates a more flexible system,

County gas tax

Supervisor Gerry Siller told the Town Board that Suffolk County Supervisors have sent a letter to County Executive Steve Bellone requesting a suspension of its tax on gasoline in order to help bring down the cost for drivers. The State has moved to cut its tax on gasoline for six months, urging counties in the state to do the same.

Great Peconic Race

Organizers of the Great Peconic Race got provisional approval to operate the event featuring watercraft — kayaks, outriggers, stand-up paddle boards — circumnavigating the Island on July 31, starting at Wades Beach. The race traditionally was a fall event, but organizer William Baldwin told the Town Board that operating the 19-mile race would be safer without winds and lower water temperatures that often attended the fall race.

The organization has been holding $30,000 in its coffers that will be turned over to the Recreation Department to help pay for a water safety educational program, Mr. Baldwin said. He anticipates another $30,000 will come from this year’s race that will also support the program. Other money could be donated to environmental programs.

Racers pay $125 to enter, but a lot of money comes from individual contributors, Mr. Baldwin said.

Participants are to be limited to 75, but only 50 parking spaces can be dedicated to the racers at the height of the summer season. The footprint for registration and award areas and equipment is being decreased, Mr. Baldwin said.

The race for front runners is generally completed within two-and-a-half hours, but participants are limited to six hours to complete the race before those remaining are pulled off the course.

Board members peppered Mr. Baldwin with other questions, while noting the race has been conducted safely for several years.

Island Musical

The Shelter Island Historical Society got approval for a musical play to be presented on the grounds between July 23 and 26 this summer. Although people can bring their own picnic food, there is no sale of food or drinks at the site and parking is divided between the society’s lot for handicapped individuals and a nearby Town lot for others. Attendance for a similar event last summer drew between 200 and 250 at its maximum, according to Executive Director Nanette Lawrenson. She noted the event was handled safely and generated no complaints.

Conroy house

The Conroy House at 9 Cozy Lane in Silver Beach appears to finally be lined up for demolition in the near future. The roof is sagging and black mold has built up badly on the inside. The Town has fenced off the area and put up signs indicating it is unsafe. But it has been four years of frustration for the Town and efforts to contact owner William Conroy have only resulted in a single opportunity to serve him papers informing him of the condition of the house and the need for action to be taken. Taxes have continued to be paid on the property, although the amount has declined as the property has deteriorated.

Mr. Conroy will be formally served with notice of a public hearing at a time to be set, with the likelihood neither he or representatives will appear. Following the hearing, the Town can proceed with plans for removal of the house. Items on the property, including bicycles and kayaks, would be removed and stored and could be claimed by the owner or eventually auctioned.

Charging stations

Grant money has been identified that could pay for additional charging stations on the Island for electric vehicles. Councilman Jim Colligan called for identifying sites for the charging stations. Green Options Committee Chairman Tim Purtell was charged with helping to locate possible sites.