It’s almost official.
The East Hampton Village Board last Friday approved code changes clamping down on outdoor parties through a new set of guidelines banning some businesses from hosting outdoor events, and requiring mass gathering permits for more than 50 people at homes and other commercial establishments.
A major provision of the legislation would prohibit the village’s seven inns from hosting events in whole or in part outdoors because they are categorized as pre-existing, non-conforming businesses located in residential areas. Other provisions would require special event permits for mass gatherings of more than 50 people.
The legislation, which was approved unanimously, does not take effect until October 1.
Violators could be charged anywhere from $500 for first-time offenses to $15,000 for second and subsequent offenses, plus any costs incurred by the village.
Mayor Paul Rickenbach said the legislation seeks to codify the village’s “approach to special events” and that it was rooted in a core issue involving pre-existing non-conforming uses. “We will seek to see that they are done in a safe and appropriate manner which allows the enjoyment of the host, their guests, the village residents, and the public at large,” he said.
Trustee Barbara Borsack said she believes there is a lot of misunderstanding in the public regarding the legislation, and that “80 to 90 percent of the legislation is exactly the same as it was before.”
“I’ve had three wedding receptions in my backyard and I have had to fill out the paperwork. It is not a terrible thing. It’s not difficult to do, and, in fact, it is a courtesy to allow the police department know what is going on at your house. They have been wonderful,” she said. “I have had nothing but good experiences every time, so I think people should not be afraid of this, and I think we’ll see that it is not going to affect our lives.”
The legislation was sparked by village officials’ concerns for public safety and the use of its resources — mainly police and code enforcement — in dealing with noise and parking complaints resulting from large parties in residential areas.
The legislation drew criticism from supporters of the village’s inns, like The Hedges Inn, as well as hospitality and wedding industry professionals, for restricting their ability to make a living and remain in the tony area. Other criticism targeted the constitutionality of the legislation and how it will affect private citizens’ rights to use their own properties.
Attorney Christopher Kelley, who is representing The Hedges Inn, urged the board not to adopt the legislation at prior meetings, and said he has been discussing the legislation with his clients.
“We are discussing how to proceed and what action to take and we are talking with other inn owners as well,” he said.
Islandia lawyer Linda Margolin, who is representing private homeowners such as Ted Williams and attorney Leonard Ackerman, has also urged the board not to adopt the legislation. She believes the village has done “nothing to correct the problems with the law” with respect to private property owners and how it affects constitutional rights such as freedom of religion.
“It’s as though the village thinks of itself as a co-op board where they are enacting legislation that will make the neighbors happy. That is not the role of government,” she said.
In a separate move, the village board set a public hearing for May 18 to change a zoning code reference from “mass assemblage permits” to “special events permits” in its section pertaining to tents.
Under the proposed change in verbiage, recreational tents not erected for more than 21 days are allowed, provided all other required permits are obtained, including a special events permit or a tent permit.