Dickson calls for housing referendum delay

Albert Dickson took his former Town Board colleagues to task for moving too fast on its community housing initiative telling them at the Aug. 9 work session, “The Town Board has put the issue in a vacuum of your own creation.”

He predicted there will be people voting against using the 0.5% real estate transfer tax program not because they object to creating affordable housing but because they don’t have enough information on which to make a decision by the time of the Nov. 8 balloting.

The Town Board is “showing an arrogance” by not sitting down with constituents to respond to questions in a freewheeling discussion of the Community Housing Fund initiative, Mr. Dickson said.

Town Attorney Stephen Kiely said he has asked anyone with questions to reach out to him so he could facilitate a discussion with the Town Board and assure other appropriate people such as the Town Engineer, the members of the Community Housing Fund Advisory Board and he could be available if needed. No one has reached out to him, he said.

Islanders are invited to respond to a survey posted on the Town website on their views about affordable housing. That survey is posted on the Town website at shelterislandtown.us under the  Community Housing Fund Advisory Board committee tab. But it will be available only until Aug. 21. Copies of the survey are also available at Town Hall for those who prefer to fill it that way rather than online.

Supervisor Gerry Silller and Councilman Jim Colligan have said they won’t respond to advertisements carried in the Reporter. But Mr. Colligan has instead asked that people with questions submit a list to the Town Board so they can be addressed. The advertisements, some of which have contained incorrect information, have rankled Town Board members.

To date, the Community Housing Board and Community Housing Fund Advisory Board have created ample opportunities to respond to questions at meetings and through open house events. But the Town Board has largely limited comments from the public to a three minute limit and not the open exchange of ideas, questions and answers several have requested.

Mr. Dickson said the Town Board should be hiring an experienced consultant to advise on a plan for transfer of development rights from Community Preservation Fund properties that can’t be developed to sites where those rights could be applied. The former councilman said he understood  if a system of TDRs is adopted, those rights could be sold and used by others who might increase density in areas of the Island where they are not wanted.

For the first time, Mr. Kiely announced the Town Board within a week would be hiring such a consultant highly experienced in structuring plans for a system to transfer development rights. He and members of the Town Board, Community Housing Fund Advisory Board and Community Housing Board have repeatedly said TDRs are not necessary to the creation of affordable housing. At the same time, if a TDR system is implemented on Shelter Island, the use of those credits would be restricted to the development of affordable housing. Also, any site on which affordable rental or sale units might be developed must pass muster with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services that is known to not waive its requirements with respect to water quality and quantity and septic systems.

Mr. Kiely outlined a timeline leading up to the Nov. 8 election date.

On Thursday, Sept. 1 the Community Housing Fund Advisory Board (CHFAB) will get a presentation from consultant Kathryn Eiseman, a partner with Nelson Pope Voorhis and Manager of the firm’s Long Island-based Environmental & Community Planning Division. She and her team have been writing the plan, the draft of which will be made public. That meeting is set for 7 p.m. and is accessible by Zoom. On Sept. 7 at the Town Board’s 3 p.m. work session, Ms. Eiseman and CHFAB Chairwoman Elizabeth Hanley will present the draft to the Town Board. At its regular monthly meeting that evening at 6, the Town Board will set a public hearing on the plan and that hearing will occur on Sept. 27.

But in advance of that public hearing, the Town Board will discuss the draft plan at its 1 p.m. work session and could do so again at its Sept. 20 work session.

Following the public hearing on Sept. 27, it’s expected the Town Board will formally adopt the plan, giving Islanders more than a month to familiarize themselves with how money would be expended if the Nov. 8 referendum is passed.