Editor’s Note: Over the next 10 days The Suffolk Times will count down the Top 10 Stories of 2010.
The noise would be deafening. Traffic would be at a standstill. Concertgoers would clog nearby parking lots, making it impossible for local businesses to accommodate their customers.
Those were just a few of the concerns about the NOFO Rock and Folk Fest organized by promoter and former town Supervisor Josh Horton for the weekend of July 31-Aug. 1 at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue.
The event turned out to be underwhelming in its impacts on the community, and East End Arts Council coffers were $5,000 fuller, thanks to a donation by Mr. Horton from concert proceeds. The money is to be used toward the establishment of a youth music program at Brecknock Hall in Greenport.
What started the brouhaha was a letter from one of the event’s workers to potential vendors predicting a crowd as large as 15,000. The application for a special event permit approved by ZBA chairwoman Leslie Weisman had estimated the event would draw only about 800 people.
After the concert, the owner of the site estimated there never had been more than 500 people on the grounds at any one time during the event.
Literally days before musicians took the stage, Mr. Horton was battling in State Supreme Court before Justice Jeffrey Spinner to try to eliminate 21 new restrictions the Southold Town Board tried to impose to limit crowds and traffic. The judge ruled that the board lacked the authority to overturn the original permit or to impose new restrictions. They included limits for on-site parking, fewer performance hours and a $6,500 advance fee to pay for police overtime.
Supervisor Scott Russell said he wouldn’t appeal the decision, but complained about Mr. Horton having taken the case to court.
He said Mr. Horton had agreed to the new restrictions before deciding to sue. He also said there was a need to change the ZBA procedures that allowed one person to sign a permit without consulting other ZBA members.
Despite the success of this event, it’s anticipated that the Town Board will re-examine its codes and could change ZBA procedures in the future.