An East Hampton Town permit for Ben Watts’s Shark Attack Sounds party, slated this year for Friday, July 5, at the Montauk Yacht Club, was approved in a split 3-to-2 vote at an East Hampton Town Board meeting last Thursday.
Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, who voted against issuing the permit, cited the size of the party — 3,900 guests are expected, according to the permit application, although thousands showed up last year at a party slated for 800 — and the inability of the board to fully review the application, given the time constraints.
Plans are to have parking at Rita’s Stables in Montauk, but this week it came to light that the town had some time ago purchased the development rights on the land there with the community preservation fund, precluding its use for anything other than agriculture-related activities.
Both Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who voted to issue the permit despite some misgivings about the short review period, noted that the party organizers had provided details and addressed concerns, such as traffic and emergency vehicle access, that arose after last year’s party.
“Last year, we said never again for this event, and since that time they have put this together,” Mr. Wilkinson said of the proposal. “They put [together] what [East Hampton Town Police Chief Edward] Ecker described as one of the most comprehensive things that he’s seen.”
“The reason it comes to the board is to look at policy,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said, “and whether or not we think it’s appropriate for the community. It’s really not the nuts and bolts of where the traffic’s going and everything.”
Organizers had submitted the application within the required time period, on June 4, but town board members received it only weeks later, after it had been routed for comment to various town officials, such as the fire marshal and police. None expressed severe concern about the event, according to the town board.
“I just think that’s a huge imposition to put on the overall community,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said last Thursday night. “And the residences, and the lake. I just think the impact of this. . . . It’s taking on too big a project, and an application on too short a notice. If you booked a motel anywhere around there, it might be a problem,” he said. “If you’re planning on coming to Montauk and spending the night on your boat, it might be a problem.”
Councilwoman Theresa Quigley pointed out that the event permit application had been vetted by all of the appropriate town departments, and that the event has taken place annually for several years. “The point is this is not an event that’s brand new,” she said. Last year’s party was shut down by officials before midnight.
“I believe the chief of police reviewed it, and I’m not going to start analyzing,” she said.
Mr. Stanzione said that he had spoken to Chief Ecker and was satisfied that plans to stage the party had undergone “due diligence. But I’m still not happy with the way it was processed,” he said. He suggested that, in the future, applications for permits for events of a similar size reach the town board earlier, so that there is time for discussion before a decision must be reached.
“That is a lot of people to put on Star Island,” Ms. Overby said, “whether you bus them in” and especially “on the busiest weekend of the year.”
Ms. Overby questioned the cost to taxpayers for police overtime, fire marshals, and the like.
Mr. Stanzione asked whether the party sponsor would be charged, as is the town’s policy, but none of the board members had an answer.
While many event permits include a tally of the cost of public services that will be charged to the organizers, the resolution approving the Shark Attack party does not. It states only that “the applicant has made arrangements for an ambulance and two emergency medical technicians to be on site,” and that they will “maintain contact with town police and the Montauk ambulance squad “to advise and request additional assistance if required.”
Another question centered on a reference in the permit approval resolution to the party serving as a fund-raiser for the Montauk Playhouse Community Center. “I don’t know how it got in the resolution,” Mr. Wilkinson said, noting that the reference was not in the permit application.
Board members revised the terms of the permit to require that music at the event end at 11 p.m. The party is slated to go from 6 p.m. till 2 a.m.