One can expect forceful objections from caterers and others as the East Hampton Town Board’s recent conversation about new limits on large events held on public and private property become widely known. The noise should not dissuade the board members from taking on this prickly issue — and potentially taking drastic steps to curtail parties in public places.
The town already has a detailed set of restrictions on the books covering the size of events and where they are held. Other rules deal with tents and music. Permits are required for private parties at which more than 50 people are expected. Celebrations at the town’s beaches are regulated as well, though it might not appear that way, given their number during the high season. In addition, the board wants to have another look at for-profit surfing lessons and fitness classes, which can disrupt nonparticipants’ enjoyment of the beach.
Parties and other so-called special events are only increasing in number. The town has handed out about 580 permits this year, an apparent record number, most concentrated during the summer months.
One big concern is timing, in that there can be multiple events on the same day or over the course of a single weekend. This puts unnecessary strain on law enforcement and contributes to the town’s traffic woes. For the most part, the permit application review procedure has been on a case-by-case basis, without an overarching framework. Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc also noted that fines, which are capped by state law at $1,000, are seen by some party planners as just part of the cost of doing business. “Do we even have a book to throw at them?” he asked during a recent meeting. Right now, the answer is no.
All that said, the town board should not create new rules that it is not prepared to enforce. As the number of events grows along with the town’s population, the day could be getting closer when private parties on public land and our beloved beaches should be a thing of the past.