Court strikes down town’s limits on weekend concert

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07/30/2010 12:00 AM |

SUFFOLK TIMES FILE PHOTO
Former supervisor Josh Horton, with police Captain Martin Flatley and ZBA chairwoman Leslie Weisman, explaining the logistics of the NOFO concert to the Town Board earlier this month.

This weekend’s NOFO Rock and Folk Fest will go on as originally planned,
without the late restrictions, including putting a cap on parking and
shutting down the music early, that the Town Board had attempted to
impose, a State Supreme Court justice ruled Thursday.
    In a
victory for the two-day show’s organizers, Justice Jeffrey Spinner ruled
that the Town Board lacks the authority to overturn the permits
previously issued by Southold’s zoning appeals board for the weekend
show at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue.
    Supervisor Scott Russell
said the town will not appeal. He called the ruling by Justice Jeffrey
Spinner “fair,” but said it illustrates the flaws in the town’s permit
review process. Town law allows the chair of the zoning board to issue a
winery event permit without consulting with the other members, as was
the case with the Peconic Bay application.
    The Town Board
attempted to add 21 new conditions to that permit after concluding that
the application did not accurately reflect the event’s size. The
organizers said they anticipated a crowd of about 800. But a letter from
a NOFO staffer to potential vendors put that number at over 15,000. The
Town Board demanded an end to the music an hour early at 6 p.m. and
also sought a payment of about $6,500 to cover police costs.
    The
supervisor said he was dismayed by the legal challenge and contended
that each of the new conditions was agreed upon by the organizers,
former supervisor Josh Horton and vineyard manager Jim Silver.
  
 ”But at the last minute [Mr. Horton] runs to court because he doesn’t
want to live with his own agreement, when they agreed to modest,
reasonable restrictions to protect the health, safety and quality of
life within the community,” said Mr. Russell. “When a judge tells us,
too bad, your code doesn’t let you do that, it’s time to change the
code.”
    Mr. Horton said he understands the towns concerns and
said the apparent disparity in crowd estimates stems from a
misunderstanding. The 800 figure represents the number anticipated at
any one time, not the total.
    ”1,200 to 1,600 is not unreasonable,” he said, adding, “Public safety is our number one priority.”
  
 The supervisor maintains that the town was misled in a permit
application “that contained so many misrepresentations that it’s almost
fradulent.”
    Still, he said he believes Mr. Horton will work to limit any potential negative impacts on the community.
    ”I look forward to the event going off as smoothly as possible,” he said.
    Mr. Silver was not immediately available for comment.
tkelly@timesreview.com

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