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Jan 25, 2011 4:20 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Foes Say Festival Violates Laws

Jan 25, 2011 4:20 PM

After weeks of protests by residents, an East Hampton attorney on Thursday said the East Hampton Town Board may have illegally issued a permit for a two-day music festival in Amagansett, which is slated for August.

In an interview on Monday, the attorney, Jeffrey L. Bragman, who has been hired by a group of Amagansett residents, suggested that his clients could file suit.

“If the town won’t listen, then someone is going to listen,” Mr. Bragman said, when asked about the possibility of a lawsuit. “And the risk to the town is that they won’t ultimately make this decision.”

Mr. Bragman addressed the Town Board during a meeting last Thursday evening, before a room packed with about 100 people, many of whom came to protest the festival. He argued that the event, which is expected to attract 9,500 people to Oceanview Farm on Montauk Highway on August 13 and 14, is a commercial venture, which cannot qualify for a mass gathering permit under the Town Code.

“You are not allowed to issue a permit as a commercial mass gathering permit unless the event occurs on public property,” he said. “There is no jurisdiction to do it.”

Town Board members passed the mass gathering permit for the festival in December, just one week after it was unveiled to the public. Three board members—Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley and Councilwoman Julia Prince—voted for it, Councilman Pete Hammerle voted against it and Councilman Dominick Stanzione abstained. The festival was proposed by two Sag Harbor men, hotel owner Chris Jones and screenwriter Bill Collage, who have started the firm Music to Know, or MTK, to organize the event.

While the permit passed with little fanfare, opposition has grown steadily louder in recent weeks, with residents voicing concerns about traffic, crowd control, safety and the timing of the event during the summer season, as well as questioning its economic benefits for the community.

Town Board members did not respond to Mr. Bragman’s concerns at the meeting—Mr. Wilkinson said beforehand that they would not interact with the public for the purpose of brevity, because so many people had lined up to speak. Mr. Wilkinson did not return a call on Monday seeking comment.

John Broderick was the first of several Amagansett residents to take the podium after Mr. Bragman. He told the Town Board he designs lighting and sets for large concerts, and called the site plan for the Amagansett festival “primitive.”

“By the most rudimentary scrutiny applied by the standards of my business, this does not pass,” he said.

At one point, Mr. Jones took the podium to defend his festival, denying that it was a for-profit venture. He was preceded by his wife, Karen, and some of his employees, all of whom argued that the festival will benefit the community. The festival organizers have promised to give $100,000 to local charities and said their event will create jobs.

One of his employees, Lisa Barrone, 25, of Sag Harbor, said she lost her previous job and was considering moving out of the area before she was hired by Music to Know. “I came into contact with Bill and Chris, the makers of this event, and they gave me a job,” she said. “I’m well educated and I wanted to do something worthwhile and great and I think this is going to be a great event.”

Mr. and Ms. Jones also called for a civil discourse and an end to “misinformation” by the opposition. “Our community faces some difficult times, some difficult decisions,” Mr. Jones said. “So let’s just not use this as an opportunity to misinform and create something that it isn’t.”

Mr. Bragman said in an interview Monday that he was representing about 20 Amagansett residents. Along with his claim that the festival was approved illegally, he raised several other concerns, saying that the site plan is inadequate; the organizers did not front fees to the town for police coverage and cleanup; they did not provide a certificate of liability insurance; and the town did not complete an environmental review of the proposal, which he said was necessary. He also said that mass gatherings, as per the Town Code, must comply with regular laws like noise ordinances as well as with local zoning.

“You can’t just blast a hole through zoning and approve a profit-making venture anywhere in the town you want because you say you like it,” he said. “And the charitable aspect of it is minute.”

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