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Shelter Island Town Board poised for Comp Plan review: Decision could come Monday to move it forward

The Comprehensive Plan Task Force and Comp Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) will meet April 29 to review what could be the final draft of the updated document before it’s passed to the Town Board and made public.

The meeting at 6:30 p.m. is to review what consultants from BFJ Planning have drafted with hopes that the group will find that all requested changes have been made.

Once the draft is approved and sent to the Town Board, it is to be available on the town website for review by members of the public.

A municipality’s Comprehensive Plan dictates policy on multiple fronts, including development, land use, transportation and housing. In 1994, a Comprehensive Plan was adopted by a Town Board resolution. A seven-month effort of discussion and research in 2008 produced an update to that plan, but the Board rejected it.

Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams estimated that if all goes smoothly, the Town Board would begin reviewing the plan chapter by chapter at work sessions starting June 4, and winding up on Aug. 13.

It can then set a date for at least one public hearing; if there are any changes to be made, it would go back to consultants for what would, Town Board members hope, be a final draft subject to a vote to accept it.

It has been a long process that started smoothly with a Task Force, CPAC, consultants and a project manager, Edward Hindin, who brought a wealth of experience in creating  public municipal plans.

But the initial group blew up in September 2021 with Mr. Hindin’s resignation after several CPAC members complained they felt left out of the process, and they charged, consultants were not accurately representing Islanders.

Their concerns centered around their request that no changes to zoning or land use should be made until the new plan was complete.

Mr. Hindin at the time said the request was beyond the scope of the CPAC and tensions mounted before a vote resulted in referring the request to the Town Board.

Particularly vocal among CPAC members was Kathleen De Rose, who said the Vision Statement of Values and Principles, meant to guide planning and implementation, should be removed. Ms. De Rose charged that some members had ulterior motives for working on the plan to benefit their financial interests.

Although not all CPAC members agreed with her, they did ask that the vision statement be removed until a policy could be adopted about the role of the CPAC. Ultimately, the Town Board opted to stop the process for what its members hoped would be a cooling-off period.

When the process was restarted in early 2022, there were changes in membership of the Task Force and CPAC. The two newest Town Board members, Meg Larsen and BJ Ianfolla, began leading the group. They announced they would review what had been done by the previous group and go as far as they could without a project manager or consultant.

By September 2023, BFJ Planning was assisting with the draft and a public hearing was held at the Community Center to enlist comments. At that late September hearing, three CPAC members — Lily Hoffman, Benjamin Dyett and Petra Schmidt — announced they were resigning, not satisfied with the process.

Once again, that shook up the process, but ultimately, a reduced group of six CPAC members have continued working.

The Task Force is now made up of Ms. Larsen, backed up by Ms. Brach-Williams and Planning Board Member Julia Weisenberg and the consultants.