New Rules for Large Events

A revamp of the laws regarding large gatherings in East Hampton Town is under way in advance of “the season,” when town officials often juggle scores of requests for large fund-raisers, parties, and sporting events.

Draft legislation that would rescind two existing chapters of the town code and combine their regulations into one new section was developed over the last few months by Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and John Jilnicki, a town attorney, who reviewed it at a town board meeting on Tuesday.

The new rules would maintain a requirement that permits be obtained from the town for outdoor assemblies of more than 50 people at residences, commercial sites, and public properties.

However, board members agreed Tuesday, the law could establish three tiers of permit review. For events with 50 to 100 attendees, the town clerk could issue a permit administratively. Those with 101 to 249 expected participants would be reviewed by a mass gathering permit committee that includes town staff and board members, and events exceeding that number of attendees would be reviewed by the whole board.

Cleanup deposits and “impact fees” — charges to cover costs to the town police for traffic control or other municipal services — could also be tied to the size of an event.

Assemblies on commercial properties, which have town site plan approvals and certificates of occupancy for particular uses, could be held only under limited conditions, according to the draft law: if sponsored by a charitable organization, if defined as a “social event,” according to the code (where no goods or services are sold), or if considered a “public amenity,” which is defined as a free entertainment, activity, or pastime, such as a movie or concert.

If allowed, however, special events could not be held on areas of commercial properties that are normally used by the business for a required function, such as parking lots.

No sales of goods or food would be allowed at any gathering, except by a charitable organization that provides services or funds to town residents, or by local civic organizations.

The proposed new legislation drops a section in the old code on “commercial gatherings,” which was developed to address the commercial use of public properties. It required businesses, such as those offering surfing lessons at the beaches, to obtain permits for activities including five or more customers.

While under the proposal parks or other municipal properties could be used only for social events, public amenities, or events sponsored by charities, and similar limitations would be applied to privately owned properties that are open to the public, the draft law does not specifically impose those limitations on beach events. However, in all public places, it says that “no assemblies that the town board deems to unreasonably impede the use of the premises by the general public shall be permitted.”

A proposal to ban the use of tents on the beaches for events, except when required by the Suffolk Health Department for food preparation, or by charities, is subject to the opinion of the town trustees.

The draft legislation will be the subject of additional town board discussions at coming meetings.