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Lack of 5th Shelter Island Town Board member could stop action on issues

The deadlock in appointing a fifth Town Board member continues, with the four elected members having an opportunity on Feb. 26 to move the process forward.

The Board is expected to vote on a resolution that, if passed, would advance the decision to ask Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) to grant permission for a special election.

As with most resolutions, a majority is needed to make that happen. That means three of the four members of the Town Board would have to vote in favor of advancing the process. A 2-2 vote would further deadlock the process, meaning a decision on adding a fifth member would have to wait until the November general election.

If the agreement passes and is sent to the governor immediately, a date for a special election could be set quickly, but it would still be about two months before the election is held.

Borrowing a page from the way it played out in replacing former congressman George Santos after the House of Representatives voted him out on Dec. 1, a date for a special election to replace him was set on Dec. 5, with the special election occurring two months later.

If a similar schedule were to happen on Shelter Island, a special election could occur at the end of April.

At the Feb. 13 Town Board work session, the members heard Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams outline an agenda for dealing with a host of issues she outlined in four “tiers.”

They are to be prioritized further, but just looking at the first tier, even with some of the efforts already underway, there is much work to be done and many demands on the time of the four sitting Town Board members.

The Town Board is expected to start reviewing the Comprehensive Plan draft, likely starting sometime in March. Ms. Brach-Williams has called for a review of the 11 draft chapters at the rate of one per week. There are also plans for at least two public hearings on the latest draft. Those who have been working on the draft for more than three years have acknowledged that it’s a demanding process, even with a general consensus on most chapters.

At the same time, the Waterways Management Advisory Council is doing the heavy work on potential revisions to the wetlands code and dock issues — with a running clock of three months on a moratorium for new applications — but it will also consume many hours for the Town Board members.

There is also work to be done with the Community Housing Board as it moves forward on two major initiatives — Accessory Dwelling Units being created with state grant money, and construction of affordable rental and sale units.

There is also the possibility of moving decisions on wetlands applications back to the Town Board; possibly changing the existing irrigation code; dealing with water quality issues, including contaminants and salt water intrusion into some wells; expected changes to the zoning code; and septic issues.

That’s just tier one.

Then, of course, there are the many town committees and boards that require Town Board members to monitor.

A full five-member Board would be challenged to balance it all. A four-member Board could be expected to result in little action on some critical issues.