Ten years ago, East Hampton Town was inundated with complaints from residents of neighborhoods where backyard volleyball games were taking place regularly. Held primarily by Latino residents in Springs, the games, they said, drew large crowds every weekend, along with traffic, noise, and litter. There were allegations of illegal sales of food and drink, gambling, public drunkenness and urination, and even prostitution.
The town board discussed changing the mass gathering law, which requires a permit if more than 50 people are expected, setting 25 as the number for which permits would be necessary. Board members also proposed an automatic review if anyone applied for more than three permits in a month. After much discussion, those ideas were dropped. Instead, the town set up two public volleyball courts to provide places for volleyball outside of backyards.
Now the issue has arisen again. Speaking at a town board meeting last Thursday, Connie Kenney, a Springs resident, said that games on Gardiner’s Lane and near Harbor Boulevard and President Street were disrupting the area, with large numbers of participants and accompanying noise, traffic, and litter. According to Ms. Kenney, games take place two or three nights a week from March through November, “with attendance just shy” of the 50-person threshold that would trigger a permit.
Ms. Kenney said the problem had been taken to Justice Court, where neigborhood property owners were advised the games were legal as long as volleyball nets were taken down after the games.
“Why are these weekly games allowed in a residential neighborhood?” Ms. Kenney asked the town board on Thursday. The town, she noted, has limits on the number of yard sales a resident can have each year, or the number of times artists can open their studios to the public. “I’ve read that Southampton Town has passed an ordinance to protect its residents. It’s time for East Hampton Town to do the same,” she said. “Please, do something so that it’s a peaceable existence for everyone.”
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley promised to bring up the matter at a forthcoming board work session. “If this has gone to Justice Court and there’s no way to prevent it, then it’s time for us to draft a law to prevent it,” she said.
Nothing in the town code limits the number of times residents can host gatherings of fewer than 50 people, John Jilnicki, the town attorney, said. Citations could be issued, he said, if a permanent playing court were built without permission, or if there were evidence of the sale of food and alcohol or other beverages.
Ms. Quigley asked the attorney to look into what laws other municipalities may have enacted to limit the frequency of organized games at residences.