June 2017 Newsletter

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To: Dering Harbor Residents June, 2017
From: The Mavor and Trustees

Last year was a busy year for the Village and the upcoming year looks to be just as busy. In this election season, we thought it a good idea to bring residents up to speed on what has been and will be going on in the Village.

Most importantly, this year’s budget has been held to a 2% to 3% increase over the prior year’s budget, an increase fully accounted for by the increase in the health insurance premiums we pay for our employees, something beyond Village control. Over the past five years, the Village budget has risen by only 3.6%. That is a cumulative increase and is about half the rate of inflation during that five-year period. For comparison sake, we looked at three villages near to us and found that their budgets have increased over the same period by between 7% (the lowest) and 28% (the highest). The relative tax savings for Dering Harbor residents are substantial, and we will work to keep the Village on this path.

After much back and forth and a public hearing last fall, we passed a law prohibiting construction in the Village on Saturdays and Sundays and after 5:00 PM on Fridays from May 1 to Columbus Day. The principal goal of the legislation was to make the Village a quiet space on weekends. We have had to deal with some enforcement issues following the law’s enactment, but the policy is now in place and we are keeping a close eye on its implementation. We similarly proposed a noise law prohibiting the use of gas powered landscaping and hedge trimming equipment after 5:00 pm and on weekends in the season from May 1 to Columbus Day and controlling unreasonable levels of noise in the Village at all times. We have held one public hearing on the law but delayed its final adoption until this summer so that Village residents who were away and unavailable to comment during the winter months would have a chance to express their views.

Much work was also done last year on the interconnected issues of the use of Shore Road, safety, privacy and the preservation of views out to the surrounding waters. An initial report based on input from all Village residents was prepared in October. The recommendations most concerning safety, such as those for hedge heights at corners and hedges encroaching up to the paved section of Shore Road, should be implemented this season. Meanwhile we will continue work on the more complex issues of Shore Road, safety, privacy and water views. All residents with views are urged to participate.

Prompted by the debate in the Town on short-term rentals, we would like to move next to tighten up the Village’s own law on rentals. We do not believe that the character of our Village should be undermined by short-term rentals. Please do not hesitate to voice your opinions. We also all owe a vote of gratitude to the Architectural Review Board. Its hard work over an extended period of time and willingness to push the developer of a new home in Dering Woods to change its plans have resulted in a new home which meets community standards.

Unfortunately last year we had unplanned litigation expenditures, which we hope will decrease this year. The owners of one home have sued the Village to try to gain ownership of the vacant lot next door to their property and have continued their lawsuit against the Village even though the Village has filed court papers detailing the lot’s actual record of legal ownership, which does not include the Village. The court has recently conditionally granted the Village’s motion to dismiss the suit, but given the plaintiffs the right to continue if they add the legal owners of record. From this point on, the controversy is largely between the plaintiffs and the owners of record, but the Village is trying to recoup as much as possible of its own legal fees in order to minimize the negative impact on Village taxpayers.

Because the case brought by these homeowners is primarily now a controversy with the owners of record instead of the Village, little additional expenditures in legal fees is anticipated with respect to this case. In addition, these homeowners have made a separate claim that they did not have to comply with the Village hedge law. The Shelter Island Court recently rejected that claim and this litigation should end soon. However the Village will have to continue defending against claims from another resident seeking ownership of portions of Shore Road and Dering Lane, some of which have already been determined to be Village property in an earlier suit brought by the owner. It is our hope that these claims will be resolved soon rather than add to the burden on Village taxpayers.

We hope you all saw the column in the Shelter Island Reporter reporting that the Press Club of Long Island has given the Village an A+ for its transparency and helpfulness in providing information to the public pursuant to the New York Freedom of Information Law. This is thanks to the efforts of our hardworking and helpful Village Clerk, Laura Hildreth. We intend to do an even better job in the future with the help of Bridg Hunt in setting up an official Village website.

Please let us hear from you on any thoughts you may have. All residents’ views are welcome and encouraged. The Village is a special place and we will continue to work to keep it that way. We hope that the recent legal maneuvering by some residents to challenge others’ right to vote or run for trustee positions will be put behind us and that the Village will remain a special place.