Editorial: Town Board taking right steps to clarify special events regulations

In an effort to remedy a troublesome problem concerning regulations for special events permits, the Town Board will meet next week to clear up the confusion and set new rules. This is a very good idea.

A year ago the Town Board amended its town code on special events, but many groups missed deadlines for paying permit application fees.

Something wasn’t working right, so board members are going back to the drawing board to correct this problem. The board will meet at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17.

Last year’s code change seems to have failed because it didn’t allow an appeal for an application that was filed after the deadline set by the Town Board. In the words of Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, “Many applications were being made that were either untimely or incomplete.”

One organization that was affected by the deadline issue was Chicken Kidz, which appealed to the board last March to let it host a children’s consignment sale in April. Faced with a room full of angry parents, the Town Board backed down and extended the deadline so the event could take place. That was a smart move.

The plan now is to adopt new regulations for special events that will still set specific permit application deadlines with a cutoff date, but will end the confusion Chicken Kidz encountered last spring.

The Town Board received input from its business advisory committee to develop the new requirements. Special events will be broken into three categories based on the number of attendees and organizers will have clear deadlines. The changes will allow a grace period — some applications that are submitted late can still be accepted with payment of a late fee. Then, if the next deadline is missed, the permit is automatically denied.

For more familiar annual Riverhead events, such as the Polish Town Fair, officials don’t have to worry that organizers will miss deadlines. When an event is held year after year, its organizers understand what they need to do and what the town expects.

But for other, smaller groups or new events coming to Riverhead, a clearer picture of the application deadlines should make everyone’s life easier.
And this time, Chicken Kidz won’t need a last-second reprieve.