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Town Board negotiating with sole applicant for affordable housing consultant position

The Shelter Island Town Board received a single response in its search for a consultant to work with the Community Housing Fund Advisory Board. The consultant would be charged with writing a plan to use of a 0.5% transfer tax to help fund affordable housing if voters approve an initiative to appear on the November ballot.

The Town Board is negotiating with the respondent, not yet identified because there are still details to be worked out.

Community Housing Fund Advisory Board (CHF) Chairwoman Elizabeth Hanley told members at the April 24 meeting that the one applicant is “highly recommended.” But the Town Board hopes to be able to streamline the assignment for the consultant, who will use residents’ input and previous experience to write the report.

If Town Board negotiations go smoothly, the consultant could be at the CHF Advisory Board by its May 19 meeting.

Members of the Advisory Board want to set up meetings with civic groups, including the Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, neighborhood associations and others to empower people to voice concerns and get answers to their questions.

Ms. Hanley has invited people to sessions held at the Shelter Island Library to discuss environmental and zoning concerns, particularly with regard to water resources, septics and land use. Members of Shelter Islanders for Clean Water and Responsible Zoning have attended, raising some questions. The Advisory Board says it wants the public to know that protecting the Island’s environment is of prime concern.

Member Michael Shatken told his colleagues they have to explain smart growth concepts focused on sustainable growth, affordable housing, transit needs, walkable access to businesses and restaurants — all designed to promote environmental consciousness.

The Advisory Board needs to “build credibility as people who listen” to concerns of the community, Mr. Shatken said.

At one public session the group will invite Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor) who authored the legislation that created the Community Housing Fund that gives each of the East End towns the option to use the transfer tax or refuse its imposition.

The tax would add 0.5% to the existing 2% tax paid by those buying property on the Island. But with exemptions from the tax that would be raised if the town adopts the program, the amount buyers would pay would often be less that they are currently paying to support the 2% transfer tax.

The report to be compiled by the consultant in conjunction with the Advisory Board does not have to be finalized before the November vote. But members believe it would benefit passage if residents knew about plans to expend money from the fund if the resolution passes. The report must be completed and accepted by the State before any money could be spent out of the transfer tax, if the resolution is passed.

Like the existing 2% Community Preservation Fund transfer tax that provides 80% of its money for land preservation and up to 20% for water quality improvements, each expenditure would still have to be evaluated and approved or denied by the Town Board.