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Town schedules housing forum for Oct. 15: Supervisor characterizes anonymous letter as ‘outright lies’

Supervisor Gerry Siller announced at Tuesday’s Town Board work session that an anonymous letter sent to full- and part-time Islanders about the Nov. 8 affordable housing referendum is filled with “outright lies.”

The letter urged recipients to vote against the referendum that, if passed, will establish a 0.5% Community Housing Fund transfer tax paid by some buyers of property.

The Town Board has scheduled a forum on the referendum for Saturday, Oct. 15, at 3 p.m. at the Shelter Island School auditorium.

The transfer tax would operate in the same way as the 2% Community Preservation Fund, but the amount would be much less and there are more exemptions for those who would have to pay the tax.

The anonymous letter claimed the fund would bring in $40 million to the town to be used to purchase land and construct apartment buildings throughout the town over a 20-year period.

It claimed property taxes would be increased for Town property owners, while residents of the “apartment buildings” would be free from property taxes and the added construction would stress the town’s fragile aquifer.

All lies, Mr. Siller said.

There is no way the fund would amass anywhere near that amount of money, said Councilwoman BJ Ianfolla, a former town assessor. She estimated the income might provide for about 10 affordable units.

Mr. Siller said apartment buildings have never been advocated for the Town. Draft images of possible sale and rental units are not apartment complexes.

Rental units would look from the outside much like large attractive houses, but inside offer four to six rental units.

Sale houses, if created, would be modest and limited in terms of the amenities allowed, either when they are initially constructed, or changes those who buy them are allowed to make.