To the Editor:
Don’t believe what the Town Board is telling you about a plan they are putting together for affordable housing. The plan is merely a publicly-funded marketing device to lull residents into voting for the referendum this Fall. In football parlance, watch for the “head-fake.” If you fall for it, be prepared for them going in the opposite direction, and fast.
Consider just one example. Earlier this year, the head of the Community Housing Fund Advisory Board toured the affordable apartment developments in East Hampton. Later, at a public meeting of supporters at the Library on March 19, she expressed how “amazing” they were and how she “loved” those multi-unit buildings.
Yet last week, in an unexplained turnabout — presumably a defensive move in response to the two-page ad published by friendsofshelterisland.org — the CHF Advisory Board Chairman announced that her Board “doesn’t plan apartment buildings.” Instead, they will “show pictures of structures” that would be of part of the “plan.”
Here’s what you need to know about this so-called “plan.” The Referendum law states that “Such plan shall be updated at least once every five years.” In other words, the plan can be changed at the whim of the Town Board. They don’t have to wait five years. They don’t have to wait five days. Even if the plan created prior to the Referendum in November specifically states that there will be no apartment buildings on Shelter Island, or whatever else it may provide, the Town Board can reverse any provision in the plan the day after the election.
Yet, the voters can’t change their vote on the Referendum. Once passed, it will last for 30 or more years. We’ll be stuck with it. Ask yourself this when you’re in the voting booth: Do you trust Supervisor Siller?
BOB KOHN, Shelter Island
To the Editor:
Affordable Housing has been a hot topic of discussion for many years, through multiple committees, consultants, supervisors. Before going further down this arduous rood, there are five basic questions that Supervisor Siller and Town Board members need to answer.
1. How many units are contemplated? An effective business plan requires a clearly defined result to justify the allocation of time, resources and money. How many units would be considered a success? Five? Ten?
2. Will a change in zoning be required? With the minimum price of a home approaching $1 million and building parcels in the hundreds of thousands, it doesn’t take an MBA or a consultant to conclude that affordable housing can be done only with multi-family complexes. However, it appears there is no zoning for this, and the ramifications of water and waste have to be considered.
3. Will the use of Town-owned land acquired for open space be considered? A one-word answer here: Probably. Possibly. Never.
4. Who will develop sell/lease and manage this project? Is the Town looking to bring in private developers and investors? Or is the Town going to take on this role? If it’s rental properties, will the Town assume the long-term responsibility for maintenance and become a residential landlord?
5. What impact will affordable housing have on real estate taxes? The Town already is spending tax revenues, such as for two consultants. Since these properties will be sold or leased below open market rates, will the Town be subsidizing their costs? If rental properties, will the Town be responsible for their maintenance and upkeep?
Residents are being asked to support the concept of affordable housing, which is easy to do in principle. Now that this concept might become a reality, we need answers to these questions. We have to know what actually is involved in order to make a decision.
DON BINDLER, Shelter Island
To the Editor:
My wife and I attended the open house at the library this past Saturday in hopes of getting some answers to concerns we have with affordable Housing, only to find that there were no answers to be had, only questions. There were some very cleverly written questions that wouldn’t get them in trouble like what type of affordable housing would you like. Single family, two family, apartments etc.
What they didn’t ask is do you want affordable housing or not. I wonder why?
When I asked how they intended to ensure that any housing built would remain affordable and in the hands of the people they deemed needed it, I could not get a single meaningful answer, which tells me they don’t have a clue.
Then I noticed a topic on one of the flyers titled “What is TDR?” It’s a good question.
TDR would allow the building rights from one property to be transferred to another property and if used the way Mr. Siller wants to use it, it will negate one of the major reasons for the Community Preservation Fund, which is to lower housing density.
I think the only reasonable way to bring this topic to a fair conclusion would be to put it on the fall ballot and let the people decide. It’s a simple question. Do you want affordable housing on Shelter Island? Yes or No.
If the Board is unwilling to put it on the ballot you know the reason why.
STEVE KOLLER, Shelter Island
To the Editor:
In its July 7, 2022 edition, the Reporter published David Olsen’s letter to the editor in which he alleges that fertilizer use at the Fiske Field discharges more nitrogen than wastewater from the Town municipal buildings, which includes the school. The proposed wastewater system will remove 1,320 pounds per year of nitrogen from entering the drinking water aquifer as well as removing many of the contaminants of concern such as PFOA and PFOS.
Mr. Olsen’s claim regarding ballfield fertilizer seeping into the groundwater neglects to state that, when properly applied, less than 10% of fertilizer nitrogen reaches the groundwater. Consequently approximately 11 pounds of nitrogen in the fertilizer in the ballfield shack would reach groundwater, which is less than 1% of the nitrogen being removed.
Following Cornell fertilization guidelines //hort.cornell.edu/gardening/soil/lawn.pdf for the entire 5 acre fields would result in approximately 22 pounds of nitrogen/year being discharged to groundwater, which is 1.7 % of nitrogen removed.
PIO S. LOMBARDO, President, Lombardo Associates
Protect the canopy
To the Editor:
What a joy it was watching a great horned owl dry his feathers in an oak tree after the much needed rain yesterday. The red-tailed hawk and wild turkey today were equally magical. Who knew egrets perch in Tupelos? The hardwood forests on Shelter Island are an integral part of the magic of the East End. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy for preserving a third of the Island, but the preserve is only half as strong if the canopy disappears from the lands surrounding it.
A young seedling’s ability to succeed as future forest canopy as well as the prospects of the understory certainly have been damaged by excessive deer browse, but that is coupled at times with a culture of wholesale clearing. While recognizing the beauty of the forest around us, we often extinguish canopy trees within the confines of the domain we control. With progress, as each remaining lot gets developed, then further re-developed, the continuum of the woodland is vanishing.
Development may be inevitable, but by retaining native trees on site, landscapes can be kept authentic. The fracturing of Shelter Island’s tree canopy can be slowed. Hopefully going forward when developing land, canopy is left in place, if not in undisturbed woodland, at least over lawns. View? Trees can still frame and even enhance a view, giving it dimension and context more noteworthy than horizon alone.
If you care for space that is already cleared, consider reintroducing native hardwoods. Redevelopment of native tree communities pays astounding benefits. Tree growth is a wonder to witness as is the fauna supported by it. Hopefully we can leave Shelter Island’s beauty intact for generations to come.
TODD BRADBURY, Closter, N.J.
To the Editor:
As a full time Shelter Island resident, I continue to be dismayed by Supervisor Siller’s personal attacks against those who disagree with him and the Community Housing Advisory Board regarding the focus — above all else — on affordable housing on Shelter Island.
As well, his rejection of the survey work asking residents, such as my family, what our priorities are, which was performed by the town itself last year, is unacceptable.
Supervisor Siller has stated affordable housing is why we elected him. Mr. Siller, I voted for you, am a progressive Democrat, strongly believe in community engagement, and most definitely did not vote for you due to any point of view you had on subsidized housing. I expected, and continue to expect, the town’s focus to be on water quality, great schools for kids on the Island, and efficient, well-run public services.
The unhinged quality you’re now displaying makes me regret that vote. I will not make the same mistake next time.
I do believe you and the Community Housing Board are living in an echo chamber, reinforcing your passion for this issue above all others. You will see the folly in that in the vote coming this fall.
CHRIS ENGLE, Shelter Island
Can’t happen here?
To the Editor:
Soon after my wife and I became new second home owners on Shelter Island, a neighbor introduced himself. He told us that he had an AK-47 automatic assault rifle and will protect the hood. That seemed a bit odd in 1992. The AK-47 toting fellow is now about 80 years old.
I understand someone who has a handgun to protect their home or the hunter who owns a rifle. Are citizens who need an assault rifle paranoid by default? What if someone with an AR-15 ages into dementia or has similar neurological issues related to long-COVID or Lyme’s disease? Paranoia can be a progressive mental illness that should disqualify that person from owning any gun.
I spent many months covering the war in El Salvador as a journalist for NBC News in the 1980’s. I have seen just what an automatic, high-caliber assault weapon can do. They fill the environment with rounds that kills most horrifically.
The two most significant, yet ignored, words in the Second Amendment are “Well Regulated,” as in ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State …” If all gun owners were members of such a state militia or an auxiliary police force then they would need to be properly trained and psychologically evaluated periodically. A onetime background check is not enough. Good guys with guns can suddenly become bad guys with assault weapons. The latest mass killers all passed their background checks. The weapons of war are out there. Every community can and must be assured that gun owners are the most stable among us. Or would the NRA argue with that too?
The kids are the best part of Shelter Island. They deserve every protection possible. The most infamous last words are: “We thought it can’t happen here”.
VINCENT NOVAK, New York, N.Y.