Featured Story

Shelter Island Reporter Letters to the Editor, June 30, 2022

A real working plan

To the Editor:

Over the past few months, I have been concerned about the dialogue surrounding affordable/community housing. There is an obvious, vocal group opposed to almost any type of affordable housing with much of the underlying tone seeming either very short-sighted or occasionally mean-spirited. On the other hand, there have been proponents who seem merely aspirational, appearing to think that affordable housing can almost occur by magic.

I strongly believe that rational affordable housing is essential to the future of Shelter Island, and that we, as a community, should be figuring out this complex and difficult issue.

That said, at this stage of the discussion, the most important component of this dialogue is missing. In order to properly and rationally review and discuss affordable housing beyond the aspirational stage, the Town needs a real working plan. It need not be a final plan, but it needs to be properly developed, in writing and then subjected to public discourse.

There is an upcoming referendum. Such a plan is needed for folks to make an informed decision, even those who conceptually are supportive of affordable housing.

As examples, a working plan needs to address among many topics, definitions, criteria, qualifications, impact on town, impact on environmental matters, potential claw-backs, areas designated for housing, type of housing (e.g. townhouses, co-ops, apartments), ownership or year-round rentals, ongoing funding, the necessity and detailed connections between TDRs and affordable housing, etc.

Obviously this is complicated, and a good working plan may take time to create, and then need time for public discourse. No plan will satisfy everyone, but in order for the public to make an informed decision about how affordable housing will work on Shelter Island, the creation and timely public dissemination of such a plan is absolutely necessary.

BILL MASTRO, Shelter Island

No to affordables

To the Editor:

I have been reading recent letters to the editor opposing the November Referendum to raise taxes to subsidize housing for households of three or more earning up to $148,800 per year. Letter writers correctly warn that Shelter Island has a unique aquifer problem and high density housing will threaten our drinking water.

That’s not a problem on the North and South forks and people can commute on the ferry just like people who commute to Manhattan on the Staten Island ferry.

What really hit home for me was when another writer asked, “Where were my handouts when I couldn’t afford my first home?” It’s a question that could be asked by every hard-working Island resident who struggled for years until they can afford a home here.

Proponents of the referendum insist that a transfer tax would not affect current homeowners, only home buyers, but as Ms. Woodward pointed out to you in a letter here (“No on Referendum,” May 26), a transfer tax lowers the value of your home by the amount of the tax, because buyers are forced to pay that much more to acquire it.

And don’t forget that an increase in Town population will likely increase Town costs, costs borne by property tax payers, along with those caused by potential problems in building and managing Town-owned housing.

I came to the U.S. over 40 years ago from a communist country. I experienced what these kinds of well-intentioned ideas, implemented by a vocal minority, can deliver. Those who think they are helping the middle class by showering them with government subsidies are doing them more harm than good. It will create a mess, not just for those people, but for the whole Island. Especially those who own homes and who live on a fixed income.

I am voting “no” on the Referendum in November.

GOSIA ROJEK, Shelter Island

Protect the aquifer

To the Editor:

Apparently the Town Board has decided to proceed with Mr. Lombardo’s plan to treat the liquid waste from the toilets in the Town-owned properties. Despite the change in the location of the septic treatment plant the plan remains ludicrous. If the goal is to protect the aquifer from further contamination by nitrogenous waste, its cost effectiveness is nil.

When one considers that there are perhaps about 5,000 toilets on the island, treating the 20 or so toilets in the government-owned property will have little or no effect on the aquifer.

Furthermore, Mr Lombardo, the town engineer and the various committees concerned with the aquifer, have neglected another significant source of nitrogenous compounds. Fertilizer comes in bags that clearly indicate amount of nitrates they contain, usually 25%.

Perhaps the town engineer instead of rubber stamping Mr. Lombardo’s foolish plan should act on behalf of the taxpayers and ask him how many trips to the potty does it take to produce the same amount of nitrogenous waste as one bag of fertilizer.

Perhaps the town engineer should be reminded that it is not Mr. Lombardo  who signs his paycheck. We have a situation where the government leaders by unanimous consent are poised to squander $2 million of public funds on a ridiculous plan to treat the waste from the 20 or so toilets in government-owned properties. Meanwhile in a shack on the ballfield where the Bucks play there are nine 50-pound bags of fertilizer each containing 12 pounds of nitrogen compounds.

These bags will be spread on the ballfield by government employees and allowed to slowly seep into the aquifer undeterred by Mr. Lombardo’s fancy treatment plant.

Your government at work. Does it get any better than this?

DAVID OLSEN, Shelter Island

What we want

To the Editor:

I am writing to introduce you to Friends of Shelter Island, a group of full- and part-time Islanders — Democrats and Republicans — united to preserve Shelter Island for future generations. We want our children, grandchildren and newcomers to enjoy the Island much the same way we’ve enjoyed it for many decades.

We don’t want overcrowding, pollution or anything that would change the tranquil character of our neighborhoods, stress our fragile aquifers, or foul our drinking water. We welcome natural, but not subsidized development, carefully regulated to preserve the “look and feel” of the Island for future generations. Towards these ends, we will be expressing our views and proposing several ideas.

At this time, we are deeply troubled by the Town Board’s plans for taxpayer-subsidized affordable housing. While some units may be justified (e.g., for EMS and Fire Department volunteers), the proposed referendum to impose a transfer tax goes way beyond that, funding an enormous amount of unnatural development and growth.

Please see our advertisement — in the current issue of the Reporter — reflecting our collective thoughts on housing, and our balanced approach to the subject.

New owners of some of our historic businesses have come to this Island and have been responsibly preserving some of our great commercial buildings. But the business corridor on Route 114 is ripe for new development, and we must be prepared.

We propose the establishment of an Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board for Shelter Island. The Sag Harbor town code contains a model for such a Board, except we believe its jurisdiction should be limited to the exterior design of commercial buildings and any newly-built taxpayer-subsidized housing structures, leaving the regulation of other residential buildings to applicable zoning laws.

You can learn more about our organization at friendsofshelterisland.org We hope you will help us make an impact to preserve our fragile Island.

BOB KOHN, Treasurer, Friends of Shelter Island


To the Editor:

Deep-pocketed off-Island businesses buying and expanding old ones and creating new ones. Rising home prices and disappearing year-round rentals, strengthening calls for subsidized housing. Expanding public water. The Island is at a crossroads.

When would growth force folks to swap well water for public or bottled water? Traffic lights for stop signs? Stop swimming or fishing in the bays? Answers to these and other questions are crucial for the ongoing Comprehensive Plan effort, as well as the November referendum on the proposed new real estate transfer tax.

Regarding environmental concerns, Islanders need to know when (1) additional consumption of water (commercial, residential, irrigation) would threaten our water supply, (2) additional pollutants (septic, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides) would threaten the quality of our drinking water and bays, and (3) growth would require public water. Also, what areas are most sensitive: the shoreline, where pollutants quickly reach the bays? Or elsewhere?

Regarding housing, how many units are contemplated over the next two, five and 10 years? What percentage will be rentals/sales? Who is eligible? Can eligibility legally be limited to those residing here or who work or volunteer in a particular capacity? Are Town employees eligible? How is housing going to be allocated to ensure fairness? By lottery? What zoning changes will be made and/or limits on subsidizing housing in residential neighborhoods? What are the taxpayer costs?

The Town hired a consultant to generate a generic environmental impact statement and housing plan, which should address some of these issues. Particularly since the consulting firm was identified by the Town Attorney prior to the RFPs and there were no other bidders, its work product should be made available with ample time for public scrutiny.

PATRICK CLIFFORD, STEPHEN JACOBS, Shelter Islanders for Clean Water and Responsible Zoning