While the weather may indicate otherwise, the summer season is nigh and weighing on the minds of the East Hampton Town Board. Chronic summertime problems are being discussed as officials shape changes to the town code on beach behavior, large assemblies, or mass gatherings, and noise.
A ban on drinking alcohol during daytime hours when lifeguards are on duty at two Amagansett beaches — Atlantic Avenue and Indian Wells — has been proposed, and the board expects to act after receiving comments from the East Hampton Town Trustees, who own the beaches on behalf of the public.
Revisions to the permit process for events at which more than 50 people are expected, whether at residences, commercial spots, or public properties, have long been a concern, as have adjustments to the town’s noise ordinance. Meanwhile, applications for official go-aheads for big events continue to roll in.
One such event, the so-called Shark Attack Sounds party, which has been an annual bash and was organized by the promoter Ben Watts, is expected to receive a thumbs-down. A resolution denying a permit for the party, to have been on July 3 at the Montauk Yacht Club, will be voted on at tonight’s town board meeting.
While a new large gathering review committee and the entire town board have been taking a more critical look at the impact of summer activities, the board appears to be following a pragmatic bent with regard to changes in the town’s noise law. Draft legislation presented to the town board last week would set specific acceptable noise levels, and would establish a procedure by which those who cannot keep noise to those levels could receive a permit to exceed them.
Michael Sendlenksi, an assistant town attorney who has been working on the draft with Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, said at an April 8 town board meeting that a special permit procedure — “almost like a Zoning Board of Appeals for noise issues” — would be the largest change if the new noise law were adopted.
Those seeking a permit would have to demonstrate why they were unable to meet the law’s requirements, and show that they had done all they could to mitigate the situation. This would be evaluated by a consultant for the town, who would be paid by the applicant.
“I’m not sure we want to do that, or should be doing that,” Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said this week.
Mr. Sendlenski called the procedure a proactive way to address chronic noise, allowing places that have had noise violations, or might be likely to have them, to “come in and plan for their activities to be in compliance” rather than violating the law and then seeking to resolve the matter.
“When you’re dealing with this process, sometimes one size doesn’t fit all,” he said. To make a successful case for permission to exceed noise limits, he said, would “require significant studies . . . significant mitigation steps,” and the applicant would have to meet “a pretty high burden.”
“The board’s going to be in the middle of neighbors that are concerned about a particular use and a particular business,” Mr. Cantwell said.
The draft of the new law would loosen existing restrictions in commercial and industrial zones, increasing the allowed maximum decibel level between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. from 55 to 65 decibels, and starting the time at which a “noise pollution” restriction kicks in at 10 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. The noise limit would extend until 9 a.m. The law would also “clarify and make explicit” a prohibition on amplified music outdoors between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. It is expected to be discussed again at another board meeting.
The draft legislation drops a proposal to factor in ambient sound in the revamp of the noise law. Instead the law would continue to rely on the specific maximum decibel levels allowed in various districts.
Mr. Sendlenski said the special permit process would be legally advisable in lieu of considering ambient noise. He said that in downtown areas ambient sound sometimes reaches the maximum level allowed. Under the draft of the new law, sound could be measured on an adjoining property, or at the street, rather than at the property line of the alleged offense.
Also at tonight’s meeting, the town board will vote on appointing several code enforcement staffers, including David Betts, to fill a new position of director of public safety. He will oversee and direct the Departments of Fire Safety, Code Enforcement, and Animal Control, and the Building Department. That role has been informally filled since the beginning of the year by Ed Michels, the head of the Marine Patrol Division.
The resolution appointing Mr. Betts states that the board “wishes to bolster its code enforcement effort as well as more aggressively address quality of life and public safety related matters.” Mr. Betts, it says, has over 32 years of experience in the field.
Two new ordinance enforcement officers, Aldi Binozi and Donald Kauthbe, are also expected to be appointed tonight.
Former Shark Attack
According to the Shark Attack Sounds resolution on tonight’s agenda, this year’s party would be attended by 4,900 people. The resolution notes that in 2012, when Shark Attack Sounds had a permit for 800 guests at Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe in Montauk, some 2,500 attended, and the party had to be shut down by police after an ambulance could not get to an injured person.
Last year, the previous town board under Supervisor Bill Wilkinson held an “emergency” meeting just before the Fourth of July to accommodate the organizers after the permit was granted, and then rescinded when it was revealed that parking was to be on a preserved and protected property. The parking location was changed. While the extra cost of police traffic control was estimated at $4,000, Supervisor Wilkinson said that the cost to the public of the party had to be weighed against the overall economic benefit to the town. Last year, the party cost $5,000 in police overtime, the resolution says.
The two Democratic members of last year’s board, who are still in office, Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc and Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, voted against issuing last year’s permit, but were in the minority.
The arrangements for traffic and parking control last year, identical to those proposed this year, were “proven to be insufficient,” according to the resolution. In addition, the resolution notes that the event conflicts with other Montauk events “on the extremely busy July Fourth weekend, overtaxing the town’s Police Department and emergency services.” The impact “shall be even greater this year,” it says, given that it says 1,000 more people would attend.