Court strikes down town’s limits on weekend concert

Former supervisor Josh Horton, with police Captain Martin Flatley and ZBA chairwoman Leslie Weisman, explaining the logistics of the NOFO concert to the Town Board earlier this month

This weekend’s NOFO Rock and Folk Fest will go on as originally planned, without the late restrictions, including putting a cap on parking and shutting down the music early, that the Town Board had attempted to impose, a State Supreme Court justice ruled Thursday.
In a victory for the two-day show’s organizers, Justice Jeffrey Spinner ruled that the Town Board lacks the authority to overturn the permits previously issued by Southold’s zoning appeals board for the weekend show at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue.
Supervisor Scott Russell said the town will not appeal. He called the ruling by Justice Jeffrey Spinner “fair,” but said it illustrates the flaws in the town’s permit review process. Town law allows the chair of the zoning board to issue a winery event permit without consulting with the other members, as was the case with the Peconic Bay application.
The Town Board attempted to add 21 new conditions to that permit after concluding that the application did not accurately reflect the event’s size. The organizers said they anticipated a crowd of about 800. But a letter from a NOFO staffer to potential vendors put that number at over 15,000. The Town Board demanded an end to the music an hour early at 6 p.m. and also sought a payment of about $6,500 to cover police costs.
The supervisor said he was dismayed by the legal challenge and contended that each of the new conditions was agreed upon by the organizers, former supervisor Josh Horton and vineyard manager Jim Silver.
“But at the last minute [Mr. Horton] runs to court because he doesn’t want to live with his own agreement, when they agreed to modest, reasonable restrictions to protect the health, safety and quality of life within the community,” said Mr. Russell. “When a judge tells us, too bad, your code doesn’t let you do that, it’s time to change the code.”
Mr. Horton said he understands the towns concerns and said the apparent disparity in crowd estimates stems from a misunderstanding. The 800 figure represents the number anticipated at any one time, not the total.
“1,200 to 1,600 is not unreasonable,” he said, adding, “Public safety is our number one priority.”
The supervisor maintains that the town was misled in a permit application “that contained so many misrepresentations that it’s almost fradulent.”
Still, he said he believes Mr. Horton will work to limit any potential negative impacts on the community.
“I look forward to the event going off as smoothly as possible,” he said.
Mr. Silver was not immediately available for comment.
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