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Shelter Island Comprehensive Plan on track to become reality: Advisory Board unanimous in decision

Shelter Island’s long march to instituting a Comprehensive Plan to guide future decisions achieved a major milestone Monday night.

After a review of a draft of the Plan — sometimes line-by-line and making a series of slight edits, clarifications, and omissions — the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee voted unanimously at Town Hall to send the draft to the Town Board for review.

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.

Monday night’s vote is a significant step forward to achieving the long-awaited goal, but there are several other moves that must be made before the Island has a Plan in place. First the edits of the draft will go to the consultants, BFJ Planning, hired by the town to aid in writing a Plan, who will incorporate the edits into a final draft that eventually will be sent on to the Town Board.

There it will be reviewed and discussed, and a series of public hearings will be scheduled where Islanders can have their voices heard.

The Island’s Zoning Board of Appeals will then have an opportunity to weigh in, and then the Suffolk County Planning Commission will study the Island’s proposed plan. After that, the Plan will have to pass muster with a State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) determination.

Finally, the Plan will be put to a vote by residents.

At Monday’s meeting, nothing was too small for the Advisory Committee not to correct before signing off, from making sure maps are color coordinated and captions to photos are correct to noting that some data is skewed by the effect of the pandemic.

Census numbers on population and school enrollment might be incorrect; figures spiked when second homeowners moved here to escape rising cases of COVID in the city and sent their children to school. Asterisks will be in place in the draft to indicate that some data could be misleading.

In a hot button issue, semantics are important, so the Advisory Committee members have changed the term “affordable housing” to “obtainable housing.”

Those and other issues were resolved, and the unanimous vote now keeps the Plan on track to someday being an agreed-upon road map to the Island’s future.