Board Adopts Limits on Large Gatherings

Tara and Kevin O’Brien, newlyweds, posed for photos after their wedding ceremony at the Hedges Inn in April, overcoming a bitter permitting dispute between East Hampton Village and the inn. Durell Godfrey

The East Hampton Village Board on Friday adopted a law setting strict guidelines for large gatherings at private residences and commercial properties. It will not go into effect until Oct. 1, and in the meantime, potential legal action is being considered. 

The statute, which had been the focus of months of debate and ongoing revisions, institutes a stringent permit process for any gathering of 50 or more people at a private residence, and prohibits the village’s hostelries, such as the Hedges Inn, from holding events outdoors even if under a tent.

The law, which is similar to one in East Hampton Town, replaces a more lenient policy, which necessitated permits only for events that would require public parking. 

After Oct. 1, a homeowner will have to provide a number of documents to receive a permit. They include a property survey, a list of on-site sanitary facilities, a parking management plan, and a description of any proposed use of outdoor speakers. The law also requires the homeowner to supply information about whether alcohol will be served and whether a security firm or a food vendor will be engaged.

After the board passed the law unanimously, Christopher Kelley, a lawyer representing the Hedges Inn, a popular wedding venue, said legal action was being considered. The inn would like to continue hosting tented events, he said, which it had been doing until March 15, when permit applications for six events scheduled for 2018 were denied.

On Friday, Mr. Kelley sent letters to Becky Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, and Frank Newbold, the chairman of the zoning board of appeals, informing them that he would appeal the denials.

Board members made their opinion clear during the meeting that the law was the right thing to do. Barbara Borsack, a trustee, addressed what she described as the public’s misperception of its impact. “It’s really not that big of a change, and we’ll see that it’s not really going to affect our lives,” she said. “I’ve had three wedding receptions in my backyard, and I’ve had to fill out the paperwork. It’s not a terrible thing. It’s not difficult to do. So I think people should not be afraid of this.”

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said, “We felt this was the right action to take. So be it.” 

At the end of the meeting, he invited the public to air opinions about the law or any other issue, but no one came forward. 

Later, Linda Margolin, a lawyer representing several private property owners who are opposed to the law, said the law unfairly infringes on homeowners’ property rights. Although she was pleased that the board had decided to exempt religious institutions from complying with the law and to remove a provision that allowed a warrantless search of a property granted a special events permit, she nevertheless said the law represented “overreaching by the village because there’s no public health and safety issue at stake.”

In other business, as expected, the board adopted a law that prohibits the use or sale of polystyrene containers by businesses in the village. It also scheduled a public hearing on May 18 on a proposed law that would allow takeout food businesses to operate in the commercial district.