ICB Minutes October 11, 2022 w/recording

by Jane Ahrens

P.O. Box 371, Fishers Island, NY 06390
Email: ficommunityboard@gmail.com

ICB Monthly Meeting
Tuesday, October 11, 2022
Zoom Only

Total Participants: 142

1. Approval of September minutes.
2. Report by Beth Cashel, ICB Liaison Representative to Southold
3. Snow removal requirements – Staley Sednaoui
4. Walsh Park – George de Menil
6. Acknowledgement of Willard Soper – John McGillian
7. Recap of ongoing and future items being addressed by ICB

Meeting minutes approved at the November 8 meeting.

ICB Representatives: John McGillain (President), George de Menil (Vice President), Staley Sednaoui (Vice President), Meg Atkin (Year-Round),Richard Miller (Seasonal), Linda Mrowka (Year-Round).

Public: 142 members of the public attended the meeting via Zoom.

John McGillain: Approval of the September minutes

Beth Cashel: Fishers Rep (Neighborhood Aide) to Southold. Update on Southold, November 8th vote on the community housing fund transfer tax: 0.5% tax on residential, commercial, or vacant land. The residents can either vote yes or no to accept the fund. This would allow a variety of housing opportunities for individuals and families of various economic means. Promoting economic diversity is good for the Fishers Island Community. The basis for the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing act is that the demand for seasonal homes has driven up the cost of housing for year round residents. Without a housing solution, employers have a hard time employing people, finding volunteers, and long time residents are pushed out. Data is shown on the median income of median southold residents. Each town votes on this act, on November 8th. The specifics of the funds would be delegated by certain members of the community that have been appointed as such, and then the town will vote on it. The overall purpose of this fund would be to provide financial assistance to eligible individuals, production of community housing for sale, rehabilitating old buildings into new housing, and broadening the community. Those that would benefit from the passing of this act could be, local employers, island volunteers, and those employed on the island. The funds would be utilized to build community housing. The purpose of the tax can be also seen on a slideshow on fishnet.

John McGillain: Question- Do you have a perspective on the fund that exists now and how much the Fishers Island Community have actually received the benefits from this tax?

Beth Cashel: I do not have the data, would like to be optimistic but there is a voice on the advisory board that is speaking up for Fishers Island.

John McGillain: Who votes for this tax on the advisory board?
Beth Cashel: The people of the town vote on whether or not to pass the tax, and the advisory board

votes on how to delegate the money.

Louisa Evans: The amount of money that Fishers Island will get is dependent on the projects that the island puts before the community and the town board and how it is presented to the community advisory board and then to the town board.

John McGillain: The more proactive we are, the better off we can be?
Louisa Evans: Yes, the more proactive we can be with the community advisory board that fits in with this

0.5% tax the better.

Beth Cashel: As a member of this board and being a part of the conversations to date is: looking to fishers Island as a place that already creates a place for community housing. The funds can be allocated with lots of options, not only just buying a house but maintenance on present community houses.

John McGillain: This should resonate with Walsh park as well, yes?
Beth Cashel: Yes, this would be something that would be interesting and hopeful.

Harvey: Walsh Park could benefit from this.

Beth Cashel: I bring up Walsh Park while talking about this, but I want to make sure that everyone takes the survey that analyzes the needs for Fishers Island residences that is being sent out from the advisory board any day now.

Staley Sednaoui: Jim Reid has done an analysis on the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing act.

John McGillain: If I remember correctly, it does not reflect well for us with money in the till that we have not seen.

Louisa Evans: I think it is also important to note that the community housing is a different thing from the land preservation, which depends on things being offered to the town to buy. We can try to figure out how we can fit into this plan.

Beth Cashel: We do not know how the funds will be divided, the vote is also about creating an exception of the first $200,000. It takes a change and actually saves people with under $2 million on a house property. It is up to the town and the voters, but I think overall it is a positive.

John McGillain: Thank you, Beth Cashel.

Richard Miller: When the town fathers were here we made some comments then and also how are we going to make this work on Fishers Island. First, I would like to ask Beth Cashel if those points that we made at the town fathers meeting have been the subject of any conversations?

Beth Cashel: They are a part of conversations, and it is my directive to utilize your points to be a part of it, yes. They are listening, truthfully. There is nothing being done, what you are seeing is what the law outlines. The advisory board has worked on a survey, the community information on the voting.

Richard Miller: When I read the statute, it really contemplated a model based on a real estate developer, they have those in Southold who would come in and say they want to make community housing and allow them to speak for subsidies. That does not necessarily fit Fishers Island very well.

Beth Cashel: It is not going in that direction, in fact Walsh Park has come up as a model rather than real estate development. We are discussing how the town will use the funds and from an affordable housing note, and if anything from the survey is not applicable to Fishers Island, I will bring it up in the meeting.

George de Menil: Beth Cashel this is very interesting and quite compelling information. I think it should not, the voters of this island will also be addressing a very specific Walsh Park proposal on Winthrop Dr. It has been considered for much longer than that, it is very important that the community not confuse these two questions. The Peconic Bay Region Community Housing act is very interesting and potentially quite exciting, we don’t really know what it is going to give us. The money is NY state money and NY state regulations as to what that money can be used for is very different from what Walsh park does. Is it going to be possible for something like this to give priority to Fishers Island. I just want to make sure that people do know that if the fund passes we will also still have a specific plan for four houses and that is quite different, lots of voting on November 8th.

Louisa Evans: George de Menil, they are two different things and one is just the school referendum and the other one is just a tax town wide that has a lot of other elections in there for a lot of different representatives for different agencies of the state.

Beth Cashel: It is not the same ballot.

Louisa Evans: Also, the fund will not be controlled by NY State, it will be controlled by the Peconic Bay Fund that it is going into. This law can give priority to those that live in the town, which is not allowed in other community housing programs. If you take money from the federal government or the state, you have to open it up wide to go through the lottery, you don’t get to state whether they are teachers, firemen, EMT’s and this would allow us to do that.

Beth Cashel: Which is why the term Community Housing vs. Affordable Housing is very intentional.

George de Menil: I just think that we should keep in mind that it is wonderful that it is on two different pieces of paper but it is on the same day and we must make sure that we know the difference between the two.

Beth Cashel: I would recommend that some go on November 18th to the meeting with the town board with a presentation similar to this, but they are going to have some other people and it will be a little bit more involved. You can attend via zoom. It is useful for all and I propose everyone attends.

Louisa Evans: I want to thank Beth Cashel for being on this committee, I think it is very important that she is there and gets the Fishers Island viewpoint and gets there before other town board members go.

John McGillain: Thank you, Beth Cashel. I think you are absolutely right Louisa Evans.

Beth Cashel: Just real quickly, the DMV is still working on getting that to Fishers. There is no progress on that, one of the things I want to bring to everyone’s attention is that on October 18th there is also a public hearing on the amendment to the large house size amendment. That is where there was a maximum gross floor area and that would limit certain sizes of a house that can go on a property.

Additionally, November 1st there is going to be a budget hearing, as we know the town budget is happening, the town heads have been drafting their budgets. Talking to Scott, November 1st there will be a hearing on that, if you are interested in where some of those funds are going whether that is the highway department, or whatever that may be a meeting you want to go to. Additionally, one question that people have been asking has been about our sidewalks and roads. A highlight of what we are seeing right now, in terms of sidewalks, currently there is only about $250,000 budgeted and that has been budgeted for another town and as we all know that is not a lot of money because we have just done it. However, the highway superintendent and town engineer are reviewing townwide all town roads and sidewalks to identify a priority list; they will be on Fishers Island this week. One of the priorities to roads is that they will be looking at roads and really the priority of storms and storm water is necessary. So when they are making those changes, they need to repave a road- fixing the water storm drainage and when they do that, they will also work on the sidewalk because they have to make it ADA compliant. We don’t know if we are going to have any roads at this point that are going to meet those standards, but it is is discussion now.

John McGillain: Do we have anyone meeting when these engineers come over there, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have a local to take them around.

Beth Cashel: Usually Louisa Evans is there and speaking to them, they are here all the time.

Louisa Evans: All I can tell you is that they are doing a priority list.

John McGillain: Can we have an influence on the priority list?

Louisa Evans: I think the influence will be based on how bad roads are and where the storm water runoff projects are done.

Beth Cashel: I think what we should be doing is paying attention and paying attention to where this goes.

George de Menil: I think the ICB should have someone there. I was told by the highway department that sidewalk projects do not have to be linked to road projects. They can be considered independently.

Louisa Evans: That is very true George de Menil, but what they have in mind for cost savings is to focus on jobs where sidewalks they do have to repair the roads and then focus on sidewalks that have extreme problems.

George de Menil: Well, I think we have that category, Louisa Evans. If you think of Montauk Ave, from the church to the Orient Avenue intersection or if you think of the sidewalk along Whistler all the way up to the post office, I think those two are in urgent need of repair. I think we should take time to focus on those.

Louisa Evans: I agree with you George de Menil, but would also like to point out to you that our sidewalks are not the only sidewalks, we are not the only ones with horrible sidewalks.

John McGillain: Nonetheless, I still think it is a good idea to accompany the engineer in the next few weeks so we can see what is going on.

Beth Cashel: I would suggest that you designate and reach out to the town engineer to find out when they are coming so we can have someone there to meet them.

John McGillain: Is that Micheal Collins?
Louisa Evans: Micheal Collins is the town engineer and Dan Goodwin is the highway superintendent.

Beth Cashel: Lastly, there is another hearing on a local law, #2022.This is to address income limits for senior citizens tax exemptions because of the current rate of inflation. Specifically, the amendment will adjust upwards the tax exemption for incomes under $50,500. This is a law we should pay attention to and many members of the year round residence will be affected by this helpful change.

George de Menil: Beth Cashel, is this an exemption from local taxes? Right, not federal taxes. Luisa: Yes, property taxes.

John McGillain: Thank you Beth Cashel, for your very thorough report. Next on agenda is Staley Sednaoui Sednaoui for snow removal requirements.

Staley Sednaoui: It is a law on the books that snow and ice need to be removed from in front of anyone’s house or other building or vacant lot, sidewalks have to be cleared as well. This is something that our community has brought to us. It is one of those Fishers Island things that everyone is relaxed about, there are several children who walk to school from briar patch utilities’ houses or all the way from Peter’s Way. So, if you just count the houses between town and school, there are about 40 property owners that need to be shoveling their sidewalks. There is a fine of $250 for each offense, and each offense continues each day as it snows. How do we get the word out? Many seasonal home owners may not be paying attention to this law and there are year round residents as well. We need to get the word out about this, email to property owners and put it up on Fishersisland.net.

John McGillain: Thank you. Staley Sednaoui. Next on the agenda, Walsh Park from George de Menil de Menil.

George de Menil: Affordable housing is on everyone’s mind, we just heard of the importance of the vote. We also have our own affordable housing, Walsh Park that has been providing people housing for over three decades. Right now, we are at an important juncture because Walsh Park is going to be presenting its plan for 4 houses on Winthrop Dr. to the community. The Sale would be coming from the school and sold to Walsh park, this was presented to the ICB about a year and a half ago. Acting in accordance to our bylaws we took up the issue, there was a clear difference between Walsh Park and those neighboring Winthrop. We urged the Fort Wright Neighborhood Association to come together with Walsh Park and come together over their differences. What was originally presented as eight homes, has now changed to four homes. The Fort Wright Neighborhood Association dialaged their concerns and presented them to Walsh Park and they responded and agreed to work forward through the issues. They were concerned about traffic, safety, utility upgrades, landscaping, parking, and more. ICB, having urged these parties to come together, we applaud diligently. Discussions of remaining issues will continue. I should point out that we have a lot of meetings going on around here. This week, there is a public meeting in front of the community about Winthrop Dr. What we will see is four brick single family homes inspired by two Fort Wright houses just down the road for the fire chiefs. The architects for this project are Tod Williams and Billy Tsein, who are world famous architects for the Obama Library, the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia, and many more important buildings. Very often, it is worth pausing for a minute, what it means to have a great set of architects that are within our community. Reading from a letter from which ICB received: “ Dear Members of the Board, in follow up to our previous discussions the Walsh Park board of directors would like to respond to recent concerns voiced by members of the community. We are aware of the perspective that Walsh Park has not historically invested enough time and or resources to sufficiently maintain our rental properties. We acknowledge that there is some validity in this concern, throughout its history Walsh PArk has had neither the focus nor the resources necessary to properly address capital and maintenance requirements of all our rental properties. We realized several years ago that despite the challenge of raising funds to support this kind of work and our belief that there remains an equal or greater need for Walsh Park to also vest in the acquisitions and development in year round housing inventory. Property maintenance was an issue that Walsh Park needed to address. To that end, Walsh Park has taken the following steps,

1.) Over the last five years, it has invested $1.4 million in capital improvements and maintenance projects at its rental properties.

2.) Walsh Park now has a building specific sub committee of its board , that has completed an initial review of all properties, and created a phased plan of investment. Items have been categorized in various levels, from critical safety to aesthetics. Walsh park has also allocated and will continue to allocate approximately $150,000 a year from its annual budget for its capital and maintenance projects. Walsh park plans to include in its capital campaign for its school land project.

If the sale is approved by eligible voters a significant target amount specifically allocated to capital improvements in its existing properties. We continue to appreciate ICB’s support and its mission as well as the ICB’s specific support of the proposed purchase of the schools property. We hope this letter helps address some of the concerns that have been shared. We also look forward to continuing working with the community with our program participants from the ICB to positively impact the year round housing needs on Fishers Island.” I think having read this letter, the ICB wishes to commend Walsh Park’s commitment to serving the community, and to commend the serious efforts of the Fort Wright Neighborhood Association and Walsh Park to reach agreement. At this important juncture, ICB endorses the land transaction, which is to be voted on November 8th and supports the plan.

John McGillain: Thank you, George de Menil. Lastly, I want to acknowledge Willard Soper who shepherded us through this COVID crisis and he was very instrumental in improving our relationship with Southold. Having Beth Cashel aboard is very helpful, as you can witness tonight. We have much more monthly participation with these monthly zoom calls than we ever had and we are just hoping that we can encourage this participation. Willard was always the steady hand and reached out to everyone and followed the credo of “ It takes a village” and we are hoping that we can continue to reach out to everyone. And we want to make ICB a forum for distributing right information, as we know the island is filled with people with opinions but we hope that they will have opinions with more facts if we are helpful here. We are going to try every meeting, invite different groups to give us facts and hopefully we will all be enlightened to have more enlightened opinions as well. We have many issues ahead of us, housing and infrastructure will always be in there. Protecting the environment will always be important, and preserving the culture we have on Fishers Island is also very important. We don’t want to go commercial or we don’t want to change the place at all, but protect it. Nonetheless, we have to be aware of what is going on outside and keep everyone informed and make the right decisions. So, Willard, thank you for all your great leadership and I hope I can follow in your footsteps.

Staley Sednaoui: Willard, we were trying to think of a way to graciously thank you and we decided it is a painting by Howard Park. It is a 5×7 oil painting of South Beach and Howard Park is one of our favorite artists, he comes here from Stonington to teach Art. It is about 9×12 framed and it will be waiting for you at the Community Center. We hope you enjoy it and think about ICB when you look about it.

Willard Soper: Staley, thank you very much. That’s very nice of all of you. I appreciate it.

John McGillain: On that note, I am going to follow in Willard’s tradition of ending on time, unless anyone has any comments. I have to say, for participating in the next November meeting the election is on the 8th so we decided we are going to try for the 9th on Wednesday. I hope that works, we will let everybody know. Anyway, thank you all, have a great rest of your evening.

Adjourned 5:54 PM

The next ICB meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 9th at 5:00 p.m.

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USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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