The Putnam Examiner

Hearing for Large Gathering Permits Produces More Questions

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Philipstown residents have more questions than answers following Thursday’s public hearing regarding a proposed law that would require permits for large gatherings.

According to the proposed law, people or organizations holding an event with more than 100 attendees would need to obtain an event permit from the town while an event that would have at least 250 attendees would require a mass gathering permit. Supervisor Richard Shea explained the proposed law is not meant to restrict events, but rather ensure that fundraisers and parties can be held legally with safety measures in place. However, residents are confused by what will and will not need a permit.

An event permit would need to be obtained only if an event is fee-based while a mass gather permit would be necessary anytime an event has more than 250 people, according to the proposed law. Still, residents were confounded about what events actually qualify as fee-based. One woman noted political parties often hold fundraisers that request donations but the event does not actually require a fee to attend while another resident noted that a permit requirement for a non-profit fundraiser would add difficult costs to each event that would require higher fundraising goals to meet expenses. Resident and pastor Tim Greco questioned whether or not his church, which holds barbeques for its congregation of more than 250 people, would need to get a permit for each event, which could become costly.

Town board members stated they might have to revisit the law with clarifications that would state that for-profit organizations would need to obtain the event permit while non-profit organizations would not.

Under the proposed laws, events that obtain a permit would be required to have a fire truck on site throughout the event in order to ensure safety, but residents again questioned why this would be necessary. Some were concerned that the requirement would tie up emergency vehicles and personnel in the event of a real emergency while others disliked the idea of needing emergency vehicles at their parties.

Trustee Nancy Montgomery explained that the intent of the law is not to require emergency vehicles at large family gatherings but rather to ensure safety at established Philipstown locations that are known for holding events but do not have site plan approval.

“We’re not foreseeing a fire apparatus at every party out in a field somewhere,” said Montgomery. “This is really geared for organizations that have a structure that doesn’t meet code presently because of historic value and they hold these great events and they’re not meeting code.”

Resident Kim Connor also suggested that the proposed law should require that a venue or person go through a formal site plan approval process if they are holding regular events on their property.

The permit process, explained trustee John Van Tassel, will be able to establish the number of people who can safely fit in a particular place that does not currently have a site plan, but residents said that the size of a party isn’t always the biggest problem.

Michael Liguori, an attorney representing several Philipstown residents who live near the Boscobel site, said the noise level is often the biggest issue for his clients. Although Boscobel would be exempt from the new permit requirements, because they already possess site plan approval as a party venue, Liguori noted that a small party can produce a lot of noise depending on the sound system used by a disc jockey. Liguori suggested in addition to setting a limit to the number of people allowed to attend an event, the town should set limits to the decibel level allowed to come from a DJ’s sound system at certain times of the day.

“It may not matter how large the (sound) system is if the noise is very loud and is able to travel and there’s nothing in between that property and a neighbor’s property to mitigate that impact,” he said.

Montgomery explained this law is intended to help mitigate impact as well as keep members of the hospitality industry interested in the town. She noted that former venue, Dockside, left Philipstown because there were complaints from residents about the noise from bands that were booked, so this law would create a system that could placate both neighbors and venues.

“Business owners just will not open a business here if (complaints) continue,” said Montgomery. “We have to decide is that the kind of town we’re going to live in where we’re going to get off the train and go to bed and there’s nothing happening and no events and you can’t have your beautiful wedding here because we can’t support it.”

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