Why should residents of rarefied Fishers Island have to tolerate eight to 10 utility workers living among them? Such an influx of people, increasing the year-round population of 250 residents by 4 percent, would distort the character of this special community huddling on its one-mile-by-nine-mile Island! The potential for hullabaloo is too risky.
The Fishers Island Utility Co. which provides power, water and telephone service to about 650 homes claims it has a hard time housing skilled workers. They mostly commute 45 minutes on the ferry from New London although the island is technically part of the Town of Southold. The utility is seeking a zoning variance on a 1.28-acre property that would allow it to build a single two-family home to retain workers. The utility even pledged it won’t follow guidelines for AFFORDABLE housing.
Still the locals are up in arms. It’s easy to see why. At a hearing, they argued that the change could lead to problems Southold isn’t even considering. New residents would strain wastewater disposal systems. Traffic could increase. With as many as 3,500 seasonal residents converging in summer, 10 workers certainly could take things over the tipping point.
The utility makes the claim that employees living on-site are there to better respond to a storm or other emergency — so all the residents have power, water and phone service. Isn’t survivalism preferable?
A 2014 Yale study concluded one of the biggest needs on the island is more year-round residents, to help create the critical mass any community needs to be viable. But at least a few island residents don’t like the idea of 10 workers living in a two-family home on one acre.
And isn’t that really what matters?
— The editorial board