Crowd count a concert concern

by |
07/15/2010 12:00 AM |

Former supervisor Josh Horton tries to convince town officials
Tuesday that his upcoming Cutchogue concert will draw only
about 800 spectators, not the 15,000 estimated in a letter sent
to prospective vendors.

The show is a go.
After a face-to-face meeting Tuesday with the promoters of the upcoming NOFO Rock and Folk Fest, the Southold Town Board backed away from its threat to pull the event’s permit.
The town considered pulling it after obtaining a copy of a letter to prospective vendors signed by Linda Ortiz, the event’s vendor coordinator, in which she wrote the concert would have up to 100 vendors and “a crowd of well over 15,000.” The plans filed with the town show just four vendors and estimated the audience at no more than 800.
Board members said that the town’s approval had been granted based on an inaccurate representation of the size of the outdoor concert, which is to take place at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue in two weeks.
In a July 9 letter to James Silver, general manager of the winery, town attorney Martin Finnegan referred to the Ortiz letter and said the board, town fire marshal and police had “serious concerns about the size and scope” of the concert. Mr. Finnegan added that the permit application to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which approved the event, contains “numerous misstatements of fact.”
There was no discussion Tuesday to indicate how the Ortiz letter came to the town’s attention.
The promoters, Mr. Silver and former supervisor Josh Horton, pledged to provide greater detail on issues including security and traffic control.
Speaking during the Town Board’s work session, Mr. Horton called the letter from Ms. Ortiz “a clerical error” by his office. “This, simply, was not supposed to go out,” he told the board. He stood by the accuracy of the 800 attendees estimate.
“It’s preposterous to think that we could have 15,000 people, or want 15,000 people, at this event,” the former supervisor said. He added that the 800 estimate covers the number of people who might be present for the all-day shows at any one time, not the total number of tickets sold.
The performers scheduled to appear during the two-day event on July 31 and Aug. 1 include Richie Havens, perhaps best known for his performance opening the original Woodstock concert in 1969, and the rock band Mountain. In 1970, Mountain scored a hit with its song “Mississippi Queen.” The music was chosen to draw “baby boomers,” Mr. Horton added.
“We’re not promoting in any way a raucous festival,” he said. Tickets are $45 for one day or $80 for the weekend.
“This is not a $3 come-one-come-all event,” said Mr. Horton.
The concerns raised during the Town Board’s discussion ranged from having adequate sanitary facilities, access to the property and repositioning the stage to direct the music away from adjacent homes and a nearby funeral parlor.
Although Mr. Horton said the winery site has ample parking, police have already received calls from area business owners who fear their lots will be overrun. That is a valid concern, said Councilman Al Krupski.
“People are knuckleheads,” he said. “They’ll park anywhere.”
The board directed the promoters to file more detailed plans with the ZBA.
The town’s concerns “are not just what’s happening on-site, it’s the impact on neighboring properties,” said ZBA chair Leslie Weisman.
Asked if his department will have any difficulties, Police Chief Ty Cochran said, “It all depends on the numbers.” If the crowd numbers 800, then no, he said. But 15,000 would be problematic. Even if the promoters are forced to turn people away, those cars would still add to the traffic, he added.
Mr. Horton suggested that the concert “will be much smaller in scale than many, many, many events scheduled to take place in this town.” He noted that the annual Strawberry Festival draws up to 40,000 people.
“I’m sure it will be smaller than the Cutchogue fire department chicken barbecue,” he said.
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