NoFo concert dispute heads to court

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07/29/2010 12:00 AM |

The partners behind the upcoming NOFO Rock and Folk Festival in
Cutchogue are seeking a court order to prevent Southold Town from
placing new restrictions on the event, including a limit on on-site
parking.
State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Spinner ordered a
hearing for this morning, Thursday, in Riverhead on the promoters’
request for a temporary restraining order to bar the town from amending
the public assembly permit issued in June by Southold’s Zoning Board of
Appeals. That permit placed no limit on the number of vehicles that
could be parked on site.
Former supervisor Josh Horton, who is
working with Peconic Bay Winery to stage the two-day event there this
coming Saturday and Sunday, said the Town Board overstepped its
authority in seeking to impose 21 additional conditions, including
restricting the number of vendors to 25 and cutting off the music at 6
p.m., an hour earlier than advertised. The promoters also object
strenuously to the town’s placing a 400-vehicle limit on on-site
parking.
Referring to the Town Board, Mr. Horton said, “A
legislative body does not have any legal authority whatsoever to amend a
decision or permit issued by a zoning board of appeals.”
The
town says that the promoters provided misleading information in
describing the event’s size and scope. The event layout map accompanying
the ZBA permit application showed four vendors and estimated a crowd of
about 800 per day.
But a copy of the organizers’ letter to
prospective vendors eventually came to the Town Board’s attention. It
said the crowd was expected to be “well over 15,000.”
During a
recent appearance before the Town Board — which had considered, but
decided against, revoking the permit after the letter surfaced — Mr.
Horton called the letter a “clerical error.”
In their court case,
the promoters also object to the town’s demand for payment of about
$6,500 to cover police overtime costs, an amount they call excessive.
Supervisor Scott Russell said the town is simply trying to ensure public safety.
“We’re
trying to have the event and at the same time safeguard the community
from unwanted effects,” he said. “People aren’t the issue. It’s the cars
and traffic that present the problems.”
The supervisor offered a particularly harsh assessment of the legal challenge.
“I
think this is a transparent attempt by the former supervisor to draw
attention to himself and the event,” said Mr. Russell. “Maybe ticket
sales are lagging and this free press doesn’t hurt.”
Mr. Horton argued the parking limit itself has the potential to create traffic problems rather than solve them.
“We’ve
got seven and a half acres for parking, but they tell us we can only
use a small portion of that? It’s asinine,” he said. “They’re creating
the potential for vehicles to try to park elsewhere, which is something
none of us wants.”
He also questioned the town’s estimate for the cost of additional police services.
“We’ve
expressed a willingness to pay for these services,” Mr. Horton said.
“However, more police are being brought on to cover this event than are
available to manage entire sections of the town on any given summer
weekend.”
Mr. Russell maintained that the concert’s principals
had agreed to all the new conditions during a July 20 meeting at Town
Hall. Mr. Horton strongly disagreed.
The town will be marking the
Cutchogue business district with “no concert parking” signs, said Mr.
Russell. “We have a list of tow operators who will be ready and on call
to go into action if people violate that,” said the supervisor.
When
concert-goers arrive, they’ll be required to produce both an admission
ticket and a second ticket showing that they parked on site, said the
supervisor.
The stage was to face northwest but at the town’s
insistence it instead must face southeast “so the music filters out over
the farm field and not the homes and businesses in the area,” he added.
That provides a 30-acre buffer, Mr. Russell said.
He doesn’t see the one-hour reduction in the concert duration, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., as a hardship.
“You’re talking about eight hours of continuous music,” he said. “Having it end at 6 p.m. is more than fair on our part.”
tkelly@timesreview.com

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