A Sag Harbor law covering special events on village waterways was unanimously amended after a public hearing on Tuesday by the village board.
“We are doing all we can that [an annual boat party] doesn’t happen in our jurisdiction,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride. Events on the water will now require a special-events permit, as do those on the land with more than 75 guests.
The amendment will affect the annual gathering in early August of boaters, kayakers, floaters, and swimmers who come together to listen to live music from a floating stage.
Jon Semlear, a Southampton Village trustee of 19 years and commercial fisherman for over two decades, applauded the board for its action. “It is not appropriate to have this gathering in Sag Harbor Cove,” he said. “It is too small an area to accommodate such a large gathering.”
“A one-day event is another stressor on a very fragile environment,” he continued. “My suggestion is to have it anywhere other than the cove, outside in the bay where there is greater flush.”
David Beard, president of the Bay Point Property Owners Association, spoke for the association’s members, who he said had voted unanimously that “we do not want the gathering.”
“We heard the stories of people swimming and walking onto neighbors’ property,” replied Mayor Brian Gilbride. “That is one of the reasons we are doing this.”
At a Harbor Committee meeting on Monday attended only by Jeffrey Peters, a member, and Bruce Tait, the chairman, the boat party was the only item that could be addressed. Without a quorum, the committee could not make a formal recommendation to the board.
Kevin McCallister, the Peconic Baykeeper, was on hand; primarily, he said, to discuss with Mr. Tait something he’d read in The Sag Harbor Express.
The paper had quoted Mr. Tait as saying, “Follow the money trail,” an implication that the baykeeper would somehow condone an event that had water quality problems because it was a fund-raiser for his cause.
“I found your comments offensive,” Mr. McAllister said. “Not in a million years will I sell my integrity for a crabnet of money for my charity.”
The comment was apparently made in response to a suggestion that donations be requested for the baykeeper at the boat party, at which Mr. McAllister had been asked to speak. “I seize on those opportunities,” he told Mr. Tait. “These are people who live in the bays.”
Mr. Tait replied that his comment was not an attack on Mr. McAllister’s integrity, but added that “there is nobody that is above an appearance of a conflict of interest.” Of the boat party, Mr. Tait said, “The upper cove is stressed as it is . . . I am worried about so many boats in there.”
Mr. McAllister clarified, “I am not here to advocate for this party. I am aware of this event since 1998 . . . I don’t have an issue with it.”
“Your concerns are well founded,” he told Mr. Tait, “but the coves have bigger issues than an assembly of boats on a given Sunday.”
The only other speaker at Tuesday’s hearing was Cam Gleason, a resident of Redwood, who said, “I have nothing against the party. In my younger days, I used to go.”
The boat party is traditionally a well-kept annual secret whose location is announced on the morning it takes place. Time will tell if the village’s amendment puts an end to the gathering.