Organizers of special events in the Town of Riverhead will get a brief reprieve from the requirements of new code provisions adopted in December, if the town board approves a proposed “amnesty” provision set for an April 2 public hearing.
The amnesty period would run six months from the Dec. 18 adoption of new rules affecting the filing and review of special event applications. If the proposed change is approved, the Dec. 18 code amendments will not take effect until June 18.
The town board will hold a public hearing on the amnesty period at its April 2 regular meeting. The board held a special meeting yesterday morning to schedule the public hearing.
The amnesty amendment was proposed by Councilwoman Jodi Giglio after complaints about the denial, under the new rules, of a permit for a popular children’s goods consignment event planned for April 3-7.
Giglio said she will move to adopt the amnesty amendment at the April 2 meeting and also move to approve the application for the consignment event, so it can go on as planned.
Susan Biegner of Medford, operator of the ChickenKidz consignment sale held at Polish Hall twice a year, said her event permit application was rejected by the town clerk because it was filed less than the minimum 60 days before the event date, as required by the newly revised code.
Biegner took the podium at the last town board meeting to complain about the new rules and the town’s failure, she said, to notify annual applicants of the changes.
Community members who sell and buy at the event voiced their protest over the cancellation in emails and calls to town officials.
Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said the town mailed letters to 40 organizations that hold special events annually in the town, including ChickenKidz, informing them of the changes adopted in December.
The changes are needed to make the special event permitting process more manageable for town hall staff, who often find themselves inundated with late applications for events that draw thousands of people to Riverhead.
Town staff need time to review applications and make sure all documentation is in order before permits are granted.
“It’s really intended to protect public safety and health,” Jens-Smith said.
The rules adopted in December moved up deadlines for filing applications and allowed for filing late applications, up to a a 60-day cutoff, with the payment of a $20 per day late fee. The idea was to incentivize organizations to file their applications by the deadline, allowing town officials sufficient time to review them.
Biegner said the new rules took her by surprise and she was stunned to learn the town would not even accept her application.
Supporters of the event turned out for yesterday’s special meeting, held prior to the start of the regular weekly work session. Several took the podium to urge the board to approve the ChickenKidz event.
Biegner thanked the board, singling out Giglio as “the driving force” in the effort to put an amnesty period in place so the consignment sale could happen.
The board voted unanimously to schedule the public hearing.
Board members all agreed that the special events permit amendments are needed but the roll-out of the new requirements left a lot to be desired.
Councilman Tim Hubbard likened the situation with ChickenKidz to “offsetting penalties” in the NFL. The application was filed late, he said, and the town board, with its new regulations, “went from zero to 100,” he said.
“It’s very simple, we both screwed up,” Hubbard said. “Let’s fix it and move on.”
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