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Mar 4, 2009 2:37 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach might ask Village Police to monitor outdoor musicians

Mar 4, 2009 2:37 PM

Westhampton Beach trustees are now considering removing a code requirement that caps how loud outdoor music can be played in the downtown business district, a move that would also give Village Police the authority to decide when music is being played too loud.

Sitting in for Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller, who missed last week’s work session, Deputy Mayor Jim Kametler led a discussion on possibly removing the current requirement that outdoor music not exceed 65 decibels. The requirement has been a point of contention during ongoing discussions about outdoor music as many have stated that it is nearly impossible to enforce the provision. Trustee Toni-Jo Birk also did not attend the meeting.

Since late fall, board members have been talking about how to deal with noise complaints stemming from performers who are allowed to play live music outside shops each summer along Main Street and Sunset Avenue. Village officials even considered banning amplified outdoor music altogether, though that idea never gained any momentum.

Currently, the village ordinance prohibits outdoor music louder than 65 decibels between 6 and 9 p.m. Between 9 and 11 p.m., the maximum music volume should not exceed 55 decibels, according to the code.

Instead of relying on complaints from residents to monitor the musicians, Mr. Kametler, a former Westhampton Beach Police officer, said the village might want to consider giving officers the authority to determine when music is being played too loud. Instead of decibel readings, officers would utilize their own judgment, according to the deputy mayor. Mr. Kametler helped institute the outdoor music permitting process in 2006.

Trustee Hank Tucker said the change could be made soon, adding that board members are now awaiting feedback from Village Attorney Bo Bishop.

“Now we’re waiting for him to come back to us with the proper language,” Mr. Tucker said. “We need to do this quickly because people need to plan.”

Mr. Tucker could not give an exact date as to when the village would vote on the code change.

He also explained the difficulty in accurately determining the volume of outdoor music with a decibel reader. In fact, he said that doing so is almost impossible because it is difficult to single out the sound of music from other noise on Main Street, like traffic and crowds of people talking. “It’s difficult to ascertain what you’re reading,” Mr. Tucker said.

Village Building Inspector Paul Houlihan also recommended using the police department to monitor the outdoor musicians. “I don’t think we want to put an ordinance inspector on every night when we have the police department out there,” Mr. Houlihan said.

Westhampton Beach Police Chief Ray Dean, who attended the meeting, agreed that the decibel reader is largely ineffective. He said the police department is able to keep an eye on Main Street in the summer because it has seasonal traffic control and part-time officers on duty.

“I think the best thing we can do is spell out nice, simple and crystal clear what they can and cannot do,” Mr. Tucker said about the business owners who secure outdoor music permits.

The trustees are also considering the proper procedure for revoking music permits. The village, which has fielded several noise complaints, has yet to revoke an outdoor music permit, according to officials. The village awards only about half a dozen of the permits each summer.

Mr. Bishop said the village could adopt the policy of giving offenders two notices of violation before either revoking their music permits or requiring that they come before the Village Board for a formal hearing. Mr. Bishop said that another municipality–which he refused to identify—has a similar policy in place. If a business owner in that municipality, after receiving two violations and attending a hearing, commits a third violation, he or she forfeits the permit.

Mr. Bishop also suggested that the board look into more clearly defining the term “outdoor music” in its code. He noted that another municipality, which he also declined to disclose, defines outdoor music as music that is played outside of a building, or played indoors if the establishment’s windows are open.

Mr. Bishop said the village does not currently have an official definition for outdoor music—an oversight that should be corrected. He said he offered an explanation to give board members an idea of how they can legally define the term.

Simon Jorna, the owner of Simon’s Beach Bakery on Main Street in Westhampton Beach, suggested that the village close a road in the village, such as Glovers Lane, and allow musicians to perform there on certain nights. Mr. Jorna usually applies each year for one of the permits. Village Board members dismissed his suggestion.

Cablevision Contract

Joan Gilroy, a government affairs representative from Cablevision, attended last week’s work session and offered Village Board members a different 10-year franchise renewal contract. The updated version included a discount for senior citizens and a $10,000 grant to finance the filming of future Village Board meetings.

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My wife and I enjoy coming into town for Ice Cream after dinner on the weekends. It is so nice to hear music at a variety of places thru town usually played by young musicians. It makes WHB so different from the other Hamptons. We are fortunate to have young people walking the town. These are the future of WHB. Why should we start some ban on the music? We wonder how many people really don't want it or are they just making the most "noise" to stop it..HLW
By howdyherb (1), WHB on Mar 4, 09 4:27 PM
I think things should remain as is .The police should FINE the people that make the complaints If the cops are called to my store when it is not warranted just because someone has a grudge ( and we all know who this person is) that person should get a warning. Anyone is welcome to come , see and hear the music at my Ice Cream Store this summer and decide for yourself. I have had music for the past couple of years and everyone knows my store and enjoys both my ice cream and the entertainment, ...more
By shock (70), whb on Mar 4, 09 9:46 PM
Hi Herb. I agree, let the music play on! Hasn't anybody noticed that the most popular places to congregate have been where the musicians are playing?
By daddrums (6), Westhampton on Mar 4, 09 11:20 PM
How pathetic and lame. No wonder they call it "Worsthampton".
By WHBinManhattan (47), Manhattan/Westhampton on Mar 5, 09 12:38 AM
How bout the cops protect the store owners for a change? And Elyse, if you require that people who complain about your shop be fined - look in the mirror (if you can). You seem to be the most vocal fool in the bunch in WHB.. All you are doing is hurting
what is already a difficult business environment. Get a grip or find some happy pills for Gods sake.
By G (342), Southampton on Mar 5, 09 11:57 AM
Hey G
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, all I do is run my businesses , and its funny how I have managed my sanity here in business for 25 years and have been able to survive and open new fun stores that were needed here .Maybe I seem to be the most vocal because I defend myself and the right to run my businesses the way I see fit. What does that comment that I am hurting mean?
Happy pills not necessary, Just breathing and enjoying life lighten up
By shock (70), whb on Mar 5, 09 12:06 PM
As a musician who has played on Main St. for a number of years, I have found those nights to be some of the most fun and appreciated gigs of the year. I do understand that styles of music and volume issues are completely subjective, and therefor levels of enjoyment. But, if majority rules, I would say more people enjoy those summer night than don't. Also, as a retail store owner in a different village, I wish I could have another five to six hours of clients wandering the street each day in the ...more
By Bandguy (23), Sag Harbor on Mar 7, 09 12:52 PM