Village Board weighs permanent event ban for Mitchell Park

Mitchell Park. (File photo)
Mitchell Park. (File photo)

Greenport Village officials appear to be leaning toward placing a permanent ban on issuing mass assembly permits for the use of Mitchell Park. 

Conversation about handling the influx of events at the park picked up again during Monday’s Village Board work session, four months after members unanimously voted in favor of a temporary moratorium on park events. During the meeting, members said they wanted to see a ban on park events that aren’t sponsored by the village.

“I think we need to stop permits altogether, with the exemption of village run events,” Trustee Dave Murray said. “If we don’t we are going to have events there every Saturday and Sunday. I don’t think that is what the public wants.”

“When [Mitchell Park] was created I though it was intended to be the public’s park … but there has been a proliferation of events,” said Trustee Julia Robins. “I have to agree with Trustee Murray.”

Until this summer, the board said it considered issuing mass assembly permits on a case-by-case basis. However, after two religious groups threatened to take legal action against the village for denying their organizations use of the park, the board said it needed to develop a more definitive policy.

Since enacting the temporary ban, members said they have considered several options to limit events, including raising the application fee for mass assembly permits.  During a July’s regular board meeting, residents said they wanted to know if state and federal grant money used to build Mitchell Park imposed restrictions on the property. On Monday, village attorney Joe Prokop said that according to the state and federal government the fee can’t be the mechanism to prohibit use of the park by people who can’t pay. The fee, he said, would have to correlate with what it costs the village to maintain the park following the event.

Mayor David Nyce and the village attorney said raising the fee could potentially open up the village to a discrimination lawsuit filed by groups that can’t afford to pay.  Also, raising the fee may not reduce the number of events in the park, the mayor said.

“We would have to accept any and all that can pay,” Mr. Nyce said.

Members are now working on compiling a list of restrictions for park events. The board is expected have a draft law prepared for next month’s work session. Public comment on the proposed law is still being accepted at the village clerk’s office.

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