“Lazy legislation”: Shelter Island bans large home construction

Projects in pipeline stopped in their tracks

Shelter Island supervisor Gerry Siller (Getty, Shelter Island Town)

Shelter Island supervisor Gerry Siller (Getty, Shelter Island Town)

Moratorium mania has struck again, this time on Shelter Island.

The town board voted unanimously for a one-year ban on the construction of houses of 6,000 square feet or more, according to the Shelter Island Reporter. Suffolk County had approved a six-month moratorium for the island, but the board’s super majority allowed it to supersede the county.

During the moratorium, applications for special permits to build big homes will not be accepted. Projects in the pipeline will not be grandfathered. They will need to apply for an exemption or wait out the moratorium and hope the town doesn’t extend it.

The board’s action infuriated people trying to construct their dream homes. At a recent board meeting, a homeowner with 25 acres overlooking Coecles Harbor called the moratorium “lazy legislation.” His attorney accused the board of acting in bad faith by delaying applications while trying to work out the moratorium.

One project is being allowed to proceed because the owners didn’t know the previous owner failed to apply for a special permit. The new owner, however, must pay the town more than $32,000 to remedy the illegality.

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The rationale for the moratorium appears to be to appease owners of smaller homes. Just north of Shelter Island, the town of Southold last year enacted a permanent rule limiting construction of large houses to large plots of land.

Large homes might annoy some neighbors, but their sales do feed revenue into the community preservation fund that protects portions of the East End from development. A 2 percent tax on sales goes into the fund. For the $8.75 million sale of a 9,000-square-foot home on Shelter Island that hit property records this month, that amounted to $175,000. Another 0.5 percent goes to a newly created affordable housing fund.

Shelter Island, a popular summer-home community between the North Fork and the Hamptons, is the latest to join the moratorium frenzy on Long Island. Bans by various towns and villages have stopped projects ranging from housing to warehouses to solar farms.

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Late last year, Greenport imposed a six-month moratorium on waterfront commercial development, then extended it for six months. Riverhead pressed pause on solar energy projects for a year in October 2021 and then for another year when the first ban expired. And in the Town of Hempstead, home and apartment construction in two villages was halted for six months. That ban was also recently extended.

Holden Walter-Warner