Concert Closer to Takeoff

    Chris Jones, one of two principals organizing the MTK: Music to Know festival, got the attention of everyone at an East Hampton Town Board meeting on Tuesday when, kidding, he dropped the name Stevie Wonder when referring to the fact that headline performers on both nights of the August 12 and 13 festival are expected to draw the biggest crowds.
    Just a joke, Mr. Jones stressed. Twenty bands are to be booked and their names have yet to be announced.
    But a bid to win approval to hold the event on an unused runway at the East Hampton Airport is steaming ahead, with the concert team (Mr. Jones, his partner, Bill Collage, several local employees, and a contingent of consultants) appearing at the Tuesday meeting to provide more information to the board.
    A permit issued by the board to MTK to hold the festival in Amagansett is being challenged in court by a group of residents who immediately rose in opposition upon learning of the summertime event.
    Mr. Jones and Mr. Collage responded to community concern by seeking the permit to hold the concert at the airport. There are fewer houses and businesses near the airport runway that could be disturbed by traffic or noise.
    Criticized for issuing the original event permit without first conducting a full review, the town board is now following procedures outlined in the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) to determine if the concert could have negative environmental impacts.
    The organizers hired the consulting firm Freudenthal and Elkowitz to produce a report that details answers to environmental assesment questions. Copies were delivered to the board in a large cardboard box on Tuesday morning.
    Terry Elkowitz, a partner in the firm, told the board that while they would provide as much detailed analysis of the concert as desired, “technically, this may be an action that is not subject to SEQRA at all.”
    According to Ms. Elkowitz, state law, SEQRA guidelines, and case law all indicated that “temporary use of land not having a permanent impact” and a “public gathering on state land” are among the types of things that do not require full environmental review under the state statute.
    The concert’s only lasting effect on the natural environment, Ms. Elkowitz said, would be the construction of a fire lane, which the town fire marshal has requested to ensure easy access in case of emergency. Vegetation would be removed, she said, but the area would be replanted after the event.
    Larry Penny, the town’s director of natural resources, has issued a memo to the town board advising that there would be no lasting harm to the environment, Ms. Elkowitz added.
    According to the consultants, an analysis using standard formulas indicates that, with 9,500 tickets to the two-day event to be sold, between 2,600 and 2,650 vehicles are expected.
    Planned parking areas at the airport, now under review by the Federal Aviation Administration, would provide about half the needed spaces. Agreements with off-site property owners, such as the East Hampton Indoor Tennis Club and the Sag Harbor School District, would yield enough spaces to park up to, potentially, 4,000 cars, representatives from Freud­enthal and Elkowitz said.
    Shuttle buses would be used to transport festivalgoers from remote parking areas to the airport. “It’s beneficial to everybody to have less cars going to the event,” Mr. Jones said. “We’re trying to actively discourage people from bringing cars to the event.” There will be a parking fee, he said, and some parking areas will be reserved only for high-occupancy vehicles carrying four or more.
    Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Jones announced that through a partnership with a major sponsor MTK will offer a downloadable application through which local businesses may offer information about their services and special deals.
    Customers and concertgoers who opt into the service will receive notifications by e-mail throughout the year when businesses post new deals, such as hotel packages or restaurant prix fixes. “That’s something we’re going to invest in, and it will be free to every business,” Mr. Jones said.
    A $100,000 donation from MTK, earmarked for local charities to be designated by the town board, will be made well before the August festival, Mr. Jones said. “They don’t take the field without it,” said Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, noting that the original support for the concert by a board majority was based on the ability to raise those funds for charitable organizations through a public-private partnership.