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Shelter Island Comprehensive Plan project passes milestone

The Comprehensive Plan Task Force and Advisory Board hit a milestone Tuesday night, completing its review of the last chapter. It has been a tough go through three years of turmoil, criticism and hard work, and Tuesday’s two-and-a-half hour session was beset with technical problems, losing sound from time to time.

But both the YouTube and Town streaming copies of the meeting are to be available for those who want to re-listen to what they may have missed.

Chapter 11, the “Implementation and Action Plan” sums up the previous 10 chapters, identifying specific steps that either should be taken, or studied to determine if action is required. Led through the process by Councilwoman and Task Force member Meg Larsen, members of the Comp Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) wanted to review the content of the action proposals to ensure they accurately reflect what is in each chapter.

On the one hand, they wanted to keep the descriptions short in Chapter 11, but at the same time say enough to be clear about the intent of each chapter. Only occasionally was there a suggestion for changing a goal, generally because of issues that had previously been discussed at length with substantial public input.

More often, it was a matter of specific wording to clarify what is meant and in one case, CPAC member Sean Clark suggested that speaking about first responders along with volunteers to various other roles, was inappropriate. Chapter 9 deals with cultural resources, a place he found inappropriate to addressing needs relating to police, firefighters and Emergency Medical Services personnel.

The whole group Tuesday night agreed that staffing for the Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services is complex. Those staffers are volunteers, except for a team of paramedics who work shifts to administer advanced life support services. Not only are the volunteers needed for emergencies on the Island, but the time they have to put in for training complicates difficulties in recruiting.

Officer Clark, who is a member of the Police Department, wants the problem, which is already evident, to be actively addressed as a priority.

Each listed action comes with an assessment of whether it can be addressed easily or with difficulty. Those that are difficult generally involve the need for interactions with other governmental levels. For example, it may be the need for interactions with the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, the State Health Department, or other agencies to achieve some goals.

Money is a factor in other goals, with the necessity to secure grants. Environmental issues overlay many action steps, especially with the clear mandate residents have given about protecting the sensitive Near Shore and Peninsula Overlay districts.

Infrastructure can complicate some action steps, and issues with water quality and quantity must not only be protected, but meet requirements for health and safety, which involve state and county regulations.

Tensions that arose during the debate over how to address wastewater issues in the Center are an indication of the difficulty that lies ahead, before solutions are adopted.

Finishing the review Tuesday night, Ms. Larsen committed to entering changes in the draft and outlining to BJF Consultants — the town’s hired consultants — changes that need to be made. She promised CPAC members an opportunity to offer their thoughts, while she prepares the draft for New York City-based BFJ Consultants. When it’s ready, she will pass it to the consultants for a new draft.

When they complete their work, Ms. Larsen will make it available to CPAC members so they can decide if they’re satisfied or want further changes. Once they are agreed, it will go to the Town Board, and it will be available to the public as well.

Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams has promised chapter-by-chapter reviews at work sessions. There will also be one or more public hearings, and with all the input gathered from the public and Town Board members, the draft will go back to the consultants for what most hope will be a final draft on which the Town Board can vote.