Featured Story

Town discusses legislation to remove roadside obstructions

The Town Board heard from Police Department Sergeant Anthony Rando at Tuesday’s work session about parking issues in several busy areas of the Island, including Route 114 and Manwaring Road; New York Avenue and Menantic Road; and New York Avenue and West Neck Road.

Parking in parts of these areas can block vision and present safety concerns, the sergeant said.

A solution would include replacing some temporary no parking signs with permanent signs in those areas, as well as others not currently posted.

He also joined Highway Superintendent Brian Sherman in discussing new legislation to deal with obstructions such as trees or large plants that might block vision of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians walking at the edge of roadways.

The obstructions need to be identified and then either cut back or removed, again for safety reasons.

Town Attorney Stephen Kiely said he is working on a draft to address use of notices to property owners of their responsibility to deal with obstructions. The notices would contain time for a property owner to deal with the obstruction and penalties for failure to do so.

The penalties could be as high as $2,000 per day and/or jail time for failure to comply.

Councilwomen BJ Ianfolla and Meg Larsen called for a hardship clause for property owners unable to remove an obstruction, or without the resources to hire someone to do the work.

An advantage of implementing a new law would be to transfer liability from the Town to the property owner for an accident resulting because of an obstruction, Mr. Kiely said.

In-Person Quorums

The concern over New York State requirements requiring municipal boards and committees to have an in-person quorum to conduct business has the Town Board looking at ways to keep important operations functioning.

The Town Board discussed a possible solution at Tuesday’s work session, suggesting adding alternates to committees who would not have voting power unless they were called on to substitute for a member who is not present.

Under State policy, there are limited excuses for virtual participation, including sudden illness of a member or spouse or unanticipated childcare responsibilities. Vacations and out of town work responsibilities don’t qualify for a member to be able to participate virtually.

For Shelter Island, implementation of the policy has resulted in many cancellations of committee and board meetings that hobbles the ability to get work done in a town without a lot of paid workers, and that depends on many volunteers.

Prior to the COVID pandemic, the law allowed for virtual participation, providing there was advance notice so that anyone in the area where the member was could join at that venue. It also required the member to be both seen and heard in the meeting room.

With the onset of the pandemic, virtual meetings became the norm until late last year when the State changed the policy.

Just adding members to a committee wouldn’t be effective, said Ms. Ianfolla, since it would simply require more people to constitute an in-person quorum.

But Councilman Jim Colligan pointed out that alternates could ensure a smooth transition if a vacancy occurs since they would already be aware of the work of the committee and could step in quickly. Currently, it can take weeks to vet candidates and make appointments.

Mr. Kiely said he wants to look at the structure used by other towns.