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Shelter Island Reporter Editorial: The question of docks

Docks have been a hot topic for discussion at Town Hall of late. As in: Who gets them? How many are necessary? And their negative impact on the Island’s environment.

Last month, Water Management Advisory Council Acting Chairman William Geraghty went before the Town Board at a work session to make the case for a moratorium on building docks along the Island’s shoreline.

“Rapid growth and spread of development are increasing demands on Shelter Island’s natural resources, including our shoreline,” Mr. Geraghty said. “The strong response to some recent dock permit applications by the members of the WMAC and the public suggests there is a growing mismatch between the town code, as written, and the needs of our community. This gap is underscored by the significant number of permit applications that have been sought and eventually been granted variances from the code.”been

He warned that more than 400 new docks could be placed along our waterways if every waterfront lot applied for a dock, and noted that from the summer of 2022 through July 2023 there were 18 dock applications with 12 of them requiring variances.

And, he added, once docks are installed, it’s extremely rare they’re ever removed.

Then, at another public meeting of the Board, a majority chose to stand by the town code on dock applications, while admitting it’s faulty, bucking the advice of two of its members to take a stand and chance a lawsuit.

Supervisor Gerry Siller said, on one application, neighbors near where a dock was proposed were correct in considering the dock dangerous. But the code didn’t prohibit the proposed structure, and rejecting the application, Mr. Siller said, would bring litigation against the town.

Councilwoman Amber-Brach Williams, who will be sworn in as supervisor in January, said that Islanders would stand with the Board if they rejected an application, and the Island would eventually win in court.

Nevertheless, her advice and that of Councilman Jim Colligan was ignored by their colleagues.

And then, another request before the Board has riled many Islanders who revere a pristine stretch of Crescent Beach. It seems that Sunset Beach Hotel is entitled, through a former agreement with the town, to a dock.

At the Board’s Nov. 29 work session, the original location requested by the hotel has been deemed unsuitable because of dangers to swimmers, but the owners are amenable to re-locating it.

Question: Why entertain the idea of a dock anywhere along the uncluttered shore near the hotel? Are there voices in town government that can question the necessity of this dock, even with the prior agreement? Is there no way to convince Sunset Beach that a dock is a detriment to the Island, and a scar on the shoreline?

It seems hotel and restaurant guests made it to the shore quite successfully all these years without a structure reaching from the beach into the bay. Is it possible to negotiate and come to a proper conclusion on this and other issues of docks on Shelter Island?

The Board must listen and act on the WMAC’S warnings and suggestions.