Frequently Asked Questions on the
Southold-Fishers Island Relationship
Answered by Fishers Island’s Town Justice, Louisa Evans
We all know Fishers Island is complicated to explain. Our trusty Town Justice Louisa is here to try. Email your questions to email@example.com and Louisa will research and post the answers to this page.
These questions are answered to the best of our ability, but there may be some inadvertent misinformation.
What does it mean to be a hamlet in the Town of Southold?
Each hamlet is a separately defined, unincorporated, geographic area in the Town with no governmental infrastructure or power, though they do have tax districts that generally coincide with their borders. Fishers Island’s tax districts are: Ferry, Fire, Library, School, and Waste Management. Many hamlets in Southold also have their own chambers of commerce.
As Fishers Island voters, whom in Southold do we vote for?
• 1 Town Supervisor
• 5 Town Board members, which includes the Fishers Island Town Justice, who also is a Town Board member
• 2 Town Justices, besides the Fishers Island one
• 5 Trustees, who basically oversee the waters
• 3 Town Assessors
• 1 Tax Receiver
• 1 Town Clerk
• 1 Town Highway Superintendent
The elections are staggered every 2 years and held on Election Day. All terms are for 4 years.
In addition, Fishers Island voters elect commissioners to the tax districts, Suffolk County officials, and state and federal officials.
Who represents Fishers Island to Southold?
Fishers Island is represented by Pierce Rafferty on the Planning Board and George Horning on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Each of those boards has 5 members, and Fishers Island is the only hamlet that is specifically represented on these boards. These two appointments are made by the Town Board for five-year terms. The Fishers Island representatives on the Planning and Zoning Boards can be reappointed, but unlike the FI Justice position, Island representation is not mandated or guaranteed (under one previous Supervisor and Town Board we lost the Zoning Board representative for one term). However, it has been a practice for many years.
The Fishers Island Harbor Committee, chaired by Elby Burr, plans for all island harbors and town waters adjacent to Fishers Island, including the assignment of mooring and anchorage areas. In addition, the committee’s harbor management plan may serve as an addendum of its Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. This committee was established in 1994 in recognition of the fact that Fishers Island’s surrounding waters are appreciably different from the remainder of the Town’s, and require local knowledge and management. Members are appointed by the Town Board for staggered five-year terms.
Peter Burr is the Fishers Island member on the Southold Tree Committee, which promotes and manages healthy, safe and effective trees along streets and on public grounds to preserve and enhance the beauty of the environment for the benefit of its citizens and future generations. The Committee also works within the community to increase awareness of the importance of trees and their care. The Tree Committee accepts requests for new street tree plantings as well as the removal of trees.
Dixon Harvey is the Fishers Island liaison member to the Town’s Land Preservation Committee, which makes recommendations to the Town Board on all aspects of farmland and open space preservation.
Chip duPont is the Fishers Island liaison to the Southold Architectural Review Committee. The liaison, a position with a three-year term, facilitates Fishers Island applications to the Committee as part of the Planning process for residential and commercial construction and renovation.
Do our representatives get paid? If so, how much?
• Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeal members are paid $13,728.
• Ferry and Waste Management District commissioners are paid a nominal fee for their services.
• Board of Ed members and Fire District commissioners are unpaid.
• Committee members and liaisons are volunteers.
Who works for Southold on Fishers Island?
• 1 Liaison to the Highway Department
• 2 Highway workers (hopefully 3 in 2016!)
• 2 or 3 Harbor Patrolmen
• 3 Constables
• 1 part-time Senior Citizen Aide
• 1 Deputy Emergency Manager
• School Crossing Guards
Does our government in Southold ever visit the island? Are any agencies or departments present here?
Does the Fishers Island Town Justice have office hours, or do people usually just call or email with their concerns?
What is the process to bring things to the Town's attention, or for the Town to bring things to Island residents' attention?
Who designates zoning on Fishers Island? Does Fishers Island have a say?
The Zoning Board of Appeals, with its traditional Fishers Island representative (currently George Horning), is responsible for variances to the zoning created by the Town Board, as well as any questions of special exceptions, such as accessory apartments.
The Planning Board is creating a new Comprehensive Plan, “Southold 2020.” Can you explain a bit more about the Comprehensive Plan's timeline and how town officials are gathering input from Fishers Island?
Town Justice Louisa Evans formed the Fishers Island Land Use Committee, an unofficial body, to provide planning input to the Land Use chapter of the Comprehensive Plan. That body has coordinated extensively with Town Planner Heather Lanza and her department, including discussion of creating zoning specific to Fishers Island.
Does the Town ever publish legal notices in Island communications outlets, or are we expected to monitor the town website or Suffolk County papers for that information?
How does voting for district commissioners, propositions, and referenda work?
The Ferry District’s broader rules allow voting by residents in the above definition, non-residents who are sole property owners, the first non-resident owner of a property with shared ownership to vote at the polls, and a designated representative of a property-owning entity. Details can be found here: Ferry Voting Rules BOC Election
TAXES AND TAX DISTRICTS
What taxes do we pay to Southold and what are they used for? Do we have a say in how they are apportioned?
To see how the taxes are used, one would have to look at each entity’s budget. Public hearings are held before the next year’s budget is adopted, where your input can be heard.
As far as the Town budget goes, Fishers Island has input from our representative on the Board (the Fishers Island Town Justice). The Harbor Committee (a committee of the Town composed exclusively of Islanders) submits its own budget. Other departments of the Town, such as Highway, Trustees, and Engineering, put items in the budget for Fishers Island-specific projects, like drainage. Hearings on the Town Budget are held at the Southold Town Hall. Written comments for the public record may be sent to the Town Clerk, if islanders are unable to attend. The Town Board adopts the annual budget by resolution; there is no requirement for the public to vote on it.
Public hearings for the tax district budgets are held on island and notices are generally published on FishersIsland.net and posted at the Post Office Bulletin Board.
What are tax districts?
The Ferry, Fire, and Waste Management districts have boards of five commissioners each, elected to staggered five-year terms. The five members of the Board of Education for the Fishers Island Union Free District act as the School District’s commissioners and are elected to staggered three-year terms. The Board of Education also acts on behalf of the Library District to collect its tax monies, so the public vote on the Board of Education budget contains two propositions: one for the School District and one for the Library District. The trustees of the Fishers Island Library Association administer the Library District’s budget.
There is also a FI Sewer District that collects fees from its users (and so is not on the tax bill); only those users pay for improvements to that district. The Sewer District is mostly in the Fort area, using Fort infrastructure. The Southold Town Board acts as the commissioners of the FI Sewer District.
How much of our money goes to Southold for services we can’t access?
It is worth noting that Southold’s police budget includes full responsibility for the barracks used by the State Troopers; salaries for constables, harbor patrol, and crossing guards; and Island use of Southold police detectives when needed.
Are there any tax relief programs the Town sponsors?
The Tax Assessor’s office can answer questions about tax exemptions during business hours at 631-765-1937. Application forms are available at: http://ny-southold.civicplus.com/index.aspx?nid=381 1/27/2016
Does Southold have an annual budget for Fishers Island or does it change yearly?
Is it Southold’s responsibility to run the ferry? Can you explain the public/private relationship?
Who pays for improvements to tax districts?
One only pays to improve districts into which one pays taxes. One also pays for improvements to the Town and the County, but not the other districts within the Town and County.
Does Southold own/run land on Fishers Island? How does this relationship work?
Will Southold help us with affordable housing?
Does Southold provide any support for conservation efforts?
As to conservation in general, the Town, State and Federal government have enacted legislation to try and conserve land, water, wildlife, etc., which the Town tries to enforce. The 2% property transfer tax applicable to most real estate sales on the island goes into the Town’s Community Preservation Fund, which is largely used to conserve undeveloped property.
Who handles emergency evacuation?
If there was an incident at the Millstone Power Plant that required evacuation from Fishers Island, the ferry would pick up people (and their pets) and transport them to Stonington. There was a trial run in October 2015, reported on FishersIsland.net: FEMA Emergency Evacuation Drill
Is there a Chamber of Commerce that covers us?