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Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: Sept. 29, 2023

History repeats itself, the old saying goes, first as tragedy,  second as farce.

With three of nine members resigning from the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) announcing their decisions at an open house and information session Sept. 23 at the Community Center, you might reverse the old saying.

We’ve been here before. Two years ago, there was a new normal of people on committees heading for the door. In a short period of time, Edward Hindin, project manager of the Comprehensive Plan group resigned amidst angry accusations. With Mr. Hindin’s departure the Town Board subsequently put the entire Comprehensive Plan effort on hold.

On the heels of Mr. Hindin’s resignation Mike Bebon, then a councilman, was also on the Community Housing Board, stepped down. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family, but also, a clause in the Town Code prohibits a Town Board member from serving on the CHB, Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals.

Then Kathleen De Rose resigned from CPAC, and Peter McCracken left his post on the Community Housing Board.

Now Petra Schmidt, Benjamin Dyett and Lilly Hoffman are gone from the present CPAC. Ms. DeRose said, in what must be one of the great understatements, that the process to craft a Comprehensive Plan for  Shelter Island’s future is “chaotic.”

We have witnessed, from those resignations two years ago until the current day, cooperation vanish, frayed nerves, pent-up anger, frustration, and rhetoric full of resentment and sour antagonism.

What was needed in 2021, and needed now, is to respond with patience, a willingness to listen and appreciate the input others are presenting and give honest thought to what people are saying.

Another old saying that once prevailed in American politic on every level, is that during a debate, don’t question opponents’ motivation, only their facts. We have seen the suggestions  of hidden agendas and conspiracies at public meetings, in the letters section of this newspaper and elsewhere, that stunt discussion of an issue to the level of a street fight.

It’s time, again, to present facts, and make cases based on  those facts. It’s vital to reach for the spirit of cooperation to face serious issues — the Comprehensive Plan, the need to deal with water quality and affordable housing. Those issues should not be battlegrounds, but opportunities for respectful and productive conversations.