Following a heated exchange at an East Hampton Town Board work session Tuesday over a controversial proposal to deal with large crowds gathering outside at restaurants or bars, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, who offered the legislation, challenged the two Democrats on the board to produce a proposal of their own to address the problem.
Ms. Quigley’s law, developed with Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, would have required businesses that have outdoor music or other entertainment to obtain permits to do so, with the number of people allowed pinned to the size of the property — one person per seven square feet.
The question they had been faced with, Mr. Wilkinson said, was “How do we control crowds outside?” Enforcement agencies, he said, had complained of a lack of ability to get injunctive relief. “This proposal we made based on incidents that occurred the last summer and the summer before and the summer before.”
The proposal Ms. Quigley offered was intended to give the town enforcement ability for large crowds outside of establishments.
But an overflow crowd at Town Hall voiced objections to the legislation at a hearing on May 10. “As one reporter told me, ‘Did you know you brought the whole town together?’ ” Mr. Wilkinson said, joking.
The opposition, he said, seemed to be from both businesses and environmentalists.
“As Bill pointed out, it got a universal response, no!” Ms. Quigley said, laughing as she spoke about the proposal.
Arguing that the number of seven square feet per person was not the real key to the law, she said, “We’re right on the brink of the season for 2012.”
“What I heard at the meeting was that no one thought this law should go forward,” said Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, a Democrat, stressing that there were only a handful of businesses involved, and that what was really needed was more enforcement officers to enforce laws already on the books.
“It’s really important to be factually correct. I said four times so far, there are no laws to enforce,” Ms. Quigley said.
“We’re down to two and a half enforcement people.” Mr. Van Soyoc said.
Ms. Quigley got up at that moment to get a document to support her point.
Mr. Van Scoyoc continued, exploring different possible approaches to address the problem, including enforcement of parking laws.
“I’d like to see your numbers,” Mr. Wilkinson said.
“There is an issue of planning that needs to be brought into this,” said Sylvia Overby, the other Democratic Board member, pointing out that the site plans of many of the problem establishments are antiquated.
“This is a way for a dialogue to get started,” Ms. Overby said. She mentioned Suffolk County septic codes.
“They are pre-existing, nonconforming. There are no site plans,” Ms. Quigley said. “Let’s talk in facts.”
“I’ll withdraw my proposal,” Ms. Quigley said. “Let’s get a proposal from you guys for once. I haven’t heard anything from either of you other than objections. I’d like to see one proposal either of you have put upon the calendar.”
“It’s good to be in the majority,” Mr. Van Soyoc said, adding that he had gotten a copy of the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting at 4:51 on Monday afternoon.
Mr. Van Soyoc and Mr. Wilkinson then engaged in a fiery exchange over what Mr. Van Soyoc’s duties and job were according to town charter, ending with both men falling into a silence.
“I’ll wait for a proposal,” Ms. Quigley said to the two Democrats.
“Thank you,” Ms. Overby said.
“I appreciate the opportunity,” Mr. Van Soyoc added.
“What a joke,” Mr. Wilkinson said, pushing his chair back away from the table.
Dominic Stanzione, the third Republican on the board, stayed out of the fray, sitting quietly during this section of the session.