A proposal to make beach parking permits seasonal instead of year-round was approved by a split, 3-2 vote of the Town Board Tuesday.
Councilman George Gabrielsen, who proposed the change, said that since the current permits run year-round, people end up getting tickets for parking at beaches in the winter, when no one else is at the beach.
The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, Tanger Outlet Center and the East End Tourism Bureau backed that move, saying visitors should be encouraged to come to Riverhead’s beaches in the off-season.
But several residents said that making a Memorial Day to Labor Day permit would open up the beaches to crime or littering in the off-season.
Councilman Jim Wooten, a former town police officer, said that year-round permit often helps police to catch people committing other crimes.
“I found it to be a useful law-enforcement tool,” he said, adding that there may be a better way to handle the year-round permit.
“Maybe we can advise our traffic control officers not to be so aggressive in the off-season,” he said.
Mr. Wooten and Councilman John Dunleavy opposed the seasonal permit.
“I feel it’s a short season and it should be extended,” Mr. Dunleavy said. He’d like to see the permit run from May to October, but said he’ll support keeping the year-round permit because many people still use town beaches during fishing season in September and October.
Supervisor Sean Walter agreed that the season should be longer than proposed, but said the summer is nearing and the town needs to get the law on the books.
“If it doesn’t work, we’ll come back and look at it,” he said.