Southold Town Board members want to revise the rules for special events, including requiring code enforcement officers to visit those events and shifting primary responsibility for permit approval or denial to the Town Board.
Currently, special events such as music festivals, carnivals or bike races, are approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals chairperson Leslie Weisman and not by the full ZBA. In recent years, large special events have drawn complaints about noise and crowd size. If Ms. Weisman denies a permit for an event, the Town Board handles any appeals that may be filed.
“We have to revise the special events legislation,” Supervisor Scott Russell said at last Wednesday’s Town Board work session, where the subject was discussed. “It’s awful, it’s hard to implement. There are standards here that make no sense.”
The supervisor added, “To leave this in the ZBA chair’s lap has to change.”
Ms. Weisman said she also supported the change.
“I don’t think it should ever have been placed with ZBA chair,” she said. Sometimes, the approval is just an administrative function, she said.
Mr. Russell said the code amendment placing responsibility for special event approval on the ZBA chair was enacted around 2007, when the town was updating its master plan.
Ms. Weisman suggested adding a requirement to the code that special event applicants agree to allow code enforcement officers on site to inspect their events for compliance. She said most of the complaints concern loud music. She also suggested adding a link to the town website providing access to a list of all approved events anticipating more than 1,000 attendees, giving their location, time and type.
One of the concerns officials hear most often from residents is whether an event is legal, Ms. Weisman said.
Another proposal suggested would require that events on farms or at wineries have some connection to farming or wine. Town code defines a special event as “any temporary gathering, demonstration, performance, exhibition, amusement or activity that is not currently a permitted use of the property in the applicable zoning district.”
A special event is an event that requires a parking area to accommodate all vehicles transporting attendees to the event that is larger than the existing parking capacity. Carnivals, circuses, fairs, bazaars, outdoor shows and concerts, parades, walks, runs, marathons, bicycle races and motorcycle rallies are among the events that would require a special event permit, according to the code.
Board members said the proposed changes should go before the town’s code committee.
Councilman Jim Dinizio said changing the code now would require a public hearing, which would take at least two weeks. He suggested that doing so in October or November would be better.
File photos: From left, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell and Southold Town ZBA chairperson Leslie Weisman. (Credit: The Suffolk Times)