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Column: Supervisor Siller responds to two-page ad on affordable housing

Last week’s Reporter had a two-page ad paid for by the “Friends of Shelter Island” (FSI) with supposed answers to questions regarding affordable housing. I tried to find out exactly who this “group” is made up of, but the website only lists Bob Kohn as its treasurer. Unlike that ad, I will stick to the facts.

To begin with, Shelter Island has never been considered “suburban.” Most people move here for its diverse, rural character. The FSI want to “preserve the Island for future generations, much the way we enjoyed it for the many decades.” The beauty of Shelter Island has always been its diversity: working families, retirees, second homeowners, all getting along to make it the community it has always been.

Mr. Kohn tries to use scare tactics, untrue “facts,” to repudiate the need for housing here. Tax subsidies have never been discussed for housing, they are not included in our housing initiatives. Water and wastewater infrastructure issues are being addressed Island-wide, not just for affordable housing.

As far as the question, “Is there really a housing shortage,” Mr. Kohn’s solution is to have all those needing housing live off-Island and commute here. This is the same man who, when I asked him to define the meaning of community, stated in a public meeting that “community is BS.”

The Town Board is not re-writing the Zoning Code. Here, again, another scare tactic and lie. Affordable housing will have absolutely no effect on open space. Preserved land, both present and future, will remain preserved, the only difference being that the development rights to that land may be used elsewhere to increase density for housing, with no net increase in density Island-wide.

The 2% transfer tax has been in place for well over 20 years. It has been so successful that it is a model for land preservation nationwide. The only complaints I’ve ever heard about the tax are from people that have no real, long term interest in Shelter Island, who are only concerned about their bottom line, their pocketbook. In actuality, it’s been proven time and again that land preservation, along with work force/community housing, add to the value of the homes in the area.

As far as the new “community groups” stating that residents do not support housing, that is another lie. If these groups bothered to actually read the Comprehensive Plan Report in relation to the survey, dated May 12, 2021, they would see that it clearly states:

1. The survey was not meant to be a referendum, but rather to make sure no issues were overlooked.

2. The need to be cautious using survey data to draw conclusions.

3. The wording was confusing, stating “how important each issue is to you and your family.”

4. The different opinions seemed significantly based on whether the respondents spent the majority of their time here or were here less than six months a year.

I would have to say the only real truth that was stated in the ad was that the Town Board declared their allegiance to affordable housing and that the supervisor has made it his highest priority.

I’ll go one step further and say that water and housing issues were the main reasons I decided to get back involved with Town government.

Gerry Siller is the supervisor of the Town of Shelter Island.