Memorial Day weekend started off with a bang, with warm summer-like temperatures and crowds at our island beaches and restaurants. On the real estate front, last minute customers shopped online, booked and moved into their rentals, and Friday through Sunday in between barbecues and leisure time, customers toured homes to purchase.
In the backdrop of summer fun, the Town of Shelter Island conducted its usual business. Zoning, while seemingly a boring topic, is important to all property owners and is rarely given the focus it deserves. Zoning falls under “police power,” the right of the government to make laws that surround safety, health, welfare and morals and affect a variety of laws including land use, fire and building codes.
This week at the Town Board meeting, new Council members Jim Colligan and Mary Dudley re-introduced a zoning and building code concept called “Proportionality” that would limit development of new homes and expansion of existing homes, particularly in areas close to the water.
Currently, the total square footage of a home only factors finished or livable areas. In the proposed concept, according to Dudley, the total square footage “would be a little more embracing” to include unheated and unfinished areas to “avoid possible loopholes” or future finishing by homeowners who might not notify the Town. On one inland acre or 43,560 square feet, a property owner could develop a total of 11% or 4791 square feet including basement, garage, attic and porches, a reduction of approximately 14% currently allowed for finished space. Many homes that are currently standing on less than an acre, in the new regulation could not be built.
Colligan responded to a speaker from the audience who opposes the proposed regulation, “that’s your point of view and I have mine. If you have a point of view, then you run for office…this is about what’s fair and right, not about the almighty dollar.”
With a direct correlation between property values and the ability to develop or expand, the Town placing sweeping limits would surely have a negative effect on real estate values, particularly on waterfront properties and those near the water.
There are many evolving issues that are worthy of open discussion, including property owners’ rights surrounding demolition of historic building and the ability to rent on a nightly or short term basis without a Town or Health Department permit. Shelter Island has historically had some of the lowest property taxes on the East End, with a fiscally responsible government and zoning that has widely been considered “fair and right.” While the notion of the almighty dollar may elude some, there are many instances where real estate is the greatest asset one owns, and the ability to sell it at the highest price possible is crucial to the future welfare of a property owner and their family.
The Shelter Island Town Board meetings are available online at:
Building inspector Bill Banks retires this month. Dedicated to his work and a fountain of knowledge, he will be greatly missed.
Where island tranquility is concerned, we are so incredibly blessed to be surrounded by nature. This week many turtles were assisted across our roads by passersby, however many were injured or dd not make it at all. While enjoying our sights and sounds, please slow down and take a moment to consider local wildlife, which as a client said yesterday, “are Shelter Islanders too.”