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Shelter Island Town Board states priorities and goals: Water, the environment and Comp plan top list

In a long meeting Tuesday, the Town Board began reviewing work they have ahead and prioritizing their goals.

“I do not want us to get so bogged down and then we get nothing done,” Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams said.

Not surprisingly, much of the focus is on improved protection of the physical environment of Shelter Island. A major initiative is to complete the Comprehensive Plan, which Ms. Brach-Williams said she hopes can happen by the end of June.

The Suffolk County Planning Commission has called for a Generic Environmental Impact Statement of the Comprehensive Plan to be completed before an updated document is adopted by the Town Board. That study would look at potential impacts to the environment by changes suggested in a plan.

The issue was raised Tuesday by Councilman Albert Dickson and subsequently supported by Councilman Benjamin Dyett. The study has been encouraged by a number of members of the Comp Plan Advisory Committee and comments from many following the development of the Comp Plan.

Mr. Dyett characterized changes to the Town Code as “a bit of mess” and the Board agreed.

Some obvious revisions, such as conflicts between Chapter 129 dealing with wetlands and 133 zoning had created havoc for the previous Town Board and there is general agreement those can be resolved sooner. But Ms. Brach-Williams said an overall review of the existing code might best be done by hiring an experienced consultant.

Improved protections of environmentally sensitive areas of the Island led to a call to reverse last year’s Town Board decision to pass final decisions on wetlands applications to the Planning Board.

Ms. Brach-Williams said that while she wants to understand implications of the move, she, too, favors reversing the decision the last Town Board made.

Everyone agreed the Town Board needs to do all it can to encourage construction of affordable housing. Calls for appointment of an attorney experienced in dealing with housing laws are already underway, with a contract being drawn between the town and an experienced upstate attorney who has worked with many East End communities on housing.

Examination of Building Department procedures is another area Town Board members want to put in place, particularly regarding enforcement.

Provisions to deal with wastewater contamination in the Center and potable water are among topics that need town attention. But Ms. Brach-Williams said the first step is to turn down a county grant for construction of a central wastewater treatment plant to serve several center buildings.

More study of innovative/alternative septic systems needs to take place, and no construction is going to take place rapidly enough to put the grant money to use, she said.

“We want to do it gracefully,” Ms. Brach-Williams said about turning down the grant, hoping that it won’t mean the town has difficulty in obtaining funds when it’s ready to proceed.

She also noted a grant to implement a program to clean up Fresh Pond has not been forthcoming and the Board should explore other ways of funding that project.

Completing the moratorium on large house construction has to be done as quickly as possible with a County Planning Commission deadline coming the end of March. A moratorium on dock construction hasn’t yet gone into effect, Town Attorney Stephen Kiely said.

Another project that needs to be completed fairly quickly is the update of the Community Preservation Fund Acquisition Plan, which has gone back to the CPF Advisory Board for more input, meaning a delay at least until March, the supervisor said.

Mr. Dickson called for reopening the Capital Planning/Grants Committee meeting to the public and others agreed. Ms. Brach-Williams said that while the meetings are no longer an overview of a number of pending projects, the focus tends to be on how to pay the town’s share of any grant that might be forthcoming.

Nonetheless, she said she will discuss reopening the sessions to the public with other members of that committee.

The supervisor also called for a more active Ferry Study Committee that would meet with representatives of the two ferry companies and start by asking them to notify the Town Board in January of any year that they expect to seek rate hikes to give the committee time to be involved in reviewing the proposals.

Two residents encouraged the Town Board to contact residents who have many talents to help create ad hoc groups of volunteers to ease the burden of Town Board members and save money on expensive consultants.