With the approach of the busy season, not only locals but seasonal visitors and outside organizations look to do some summer fund-raising here, and start planning parties, sales, and sporting events. In anticipation, the East Hampton Town Board has put in place a new system for review of mass-gathering permit requests. It plans to discuss revisions to the rules governing the increasing number of big and potentially disruptive events.
A committee is meeting once a week to review permit applications. It is also keeping tabs on a master schedule of upcoming functions. The committee will review only those for which all required paperwork has been submitted, said Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, a member, on Monday, and will require applicants to submit forms at least 30 days prior to a proposed event. Not only the permit application form must be filled out, but proof of required insurance, and a hold-harmless agreement for the town if the event is taking place on public property is needed.
“It’s just a really thorough review, and we’re doing them more in advance,” Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said. The committee has already reviewed “close to two dozen — all the ones that were completed.”
The group, whose other members are Councilman Fred Overton, East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo, John Rooney, head of the Department of Parks and Recreation, and Town Clerk Carole Brennan, is subjecting the permit requests to closer scrutiny than they have received up to now. Under the last town administration, approval, with little or no public discussion, of permits for large-scale events such as the ultimately aborted Music to Know concert, encountered strong opposition over the prospect of traffic, noise, and crowds.
Maintaining a better handle on, and perhaps tamping down the burgeoning number of summer soirees was among the issues she and her running mate last fall, Supervisor Larry Cantwell, campaigned on, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said.
For instance, she said, the Hamptons Marathon and a triathlon in Montauk have been taking place on the same fall weekend. Their organizers have been told, she said, that this is the last year that will be allowed. “It’s just stretching our police force too far.”
Recently, the councilwoman said, applicants seeking an okay for three days of wedding-related celebrations on a small residential street were told that the scope of the festivities was too much for the neighborhood. They were asked to scale things back, and the permit committee worked with them to develop a plan for gatherings that could be approved.
Garbage left over from events at public sites has been an issue, even though a clean-up deposit is collected from party hosts. The new committee is looking carefully at whether to require hosts to haul away their own garbage or allow them to leave it, bagged up, for town pickup.
For example, Ms. Burke-Gonzalez said, on Thursdays through Sundayswhen parties go late, they continue past even the 4:30 p.m.-to-midnight rounds of town parks garbage collectors. Then, she said, any trash bags left at the site could fall prey to animals or the elements. The committee has therefore asked applicants using, for instance, the Maidstone Park pavilion in Springs, to take their trash away with them.
Ms. Brennan’s office is keeping a master calendar of events, and Chief Sarlo keeps tabs on the demand for police services and their cost.
Mr. Cantwell said Tuesday that he will soon present to the town board a package of proposed changes to the town code designed to mainly address, summertime quality-of-life issues including mass gatherings and the crowding at restaurants that operate primarily as bars. The changes will include criteria to determine what fees will be asked of organizers to cover the costs “that the town incurs to handle an event,” such as police protection, traffic control, or garbage pickup.
The supervisor said the objective was to “draw a clear distinction” between an event that is for profit, or a commercial enterprise, and “those that benefit local not-for-profits.”
The changes will also spell out “how much advance notice you need for various types of permits.”
Mr. Cantwell said he organized the new permit-review committee because there had previously been “no coordinated review whatsoever.” Applications were being routed by email to various town departments, often not reaching members of the town board until late in the process.
“Now at least they’re all sitting down” together to review the applications, Mr. Cantwell said.
There is “not necessarily an anticipated public hearing process,” he said, but if the reviewing committee has issues with an application, requiring submission well ahead of the date of a proposed event would enable the town board to discuss the event at a public meeting, and citizens to weigh in.
Nine events were approved by a unanimous town board last Thursday, starting with two this month — the Montauk St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday and a fund-raiser this coming Sunday at Inlet Seafood in Montauk for Robbie Badkin — and ending with the annual Montauk Lions Club arts and crafts fair on Labor Day weekend, when the high season draws to a close.