While critics might say East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and his deputy Councilwoman Theresa Quigley are the crankiest elected officials these parts have seen in years, they sure do like parties. In the last several weeks the pair has pushed to approve last minute permits for two events that are eyebrow raisers.
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As reported in last week's Independent, during their June 20 meeting board members approved, in a split vote, a permit for a super size party predicted to bring 3900 revelers to the Montauk Yacht Club on Friday night for the "Shark Attack Sound" event.
Opponents Councilwoman Sylvia Overby and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, plus Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who was ultimately the swing vote, complained they didn't have enough time to review the application. They received it mere days before they were forced to make a decision.
Wilkinson argued the applicants complied with mass gathering law, which requires application be filed at least 30 days prior to the event. Stanzione ultimately voted to approve the permit, stating he didn't want to punish the applicants because the board members themselves didn't receive the application in a timely fashion. He also said he spoke at length with police officials who said they'd have no problem with an event of that size.
The application notes cars will park at Rita's Stables and attendees with be shuttled to the event from there. New information this week, however, calls into question the legality of using the site.
In 2004, the town purchased the development rights to the farmland for $2 million. The Purchase of Development Rights Agreement between the town and the property owner contains a section prohibiting "any permanent or temporary, residential, commercial or industrial use, including but not limited to commercial recreational use and special events." Additionally, the partial lease of the land for any purpose other than to maintain its agricultural use is prohibited without approval from the town planning board, according to the PDR agreement.
Nobody knew this, apparently. Quigley hotly insisted the application was vetted to all department heads for review during the June 20 discussion.
None of the town board members asked by The Independent were aware of the property's protected status, including Quigley. "That should have been brought to our attention and would have been if we had more time," Overby said. She said the parking could be a misuse of Community Preservation Fund land "and should be investigated." The town attorney's office would generally be the entity to check the status of the property.
The application lists departments that reviewed the submission, highlighting those that did. It appears it did not go through the town attorney's office.
As the Shark Attack approaches, Overby noted Quigley changed timing on the application with a verbal amendment, made without consulting the applicant, during the June 20 meeting.
Although the party is set to run from 6 PM until 2 AM, Quigley called for ending live music by 11 PM. "That was a 'take it or leave it,'" Overby explained. "You have to wonder, are we going to have police stationed there to make sure the music stops on our busiest weekend of the year?"
During discussion of the controversial proposal, much was made of the applicant's timely submission.
Last Wednesday, the town board held a special meeting, with less than 40 minutes notice given to local media. The message announcing the special meeting mentioned the need to discuss and approve three grant applications that were time sensitive. It didn't mention a fourth agenda item – a permit to host a party at the Montauk Beach House.
An application for a "charitable fundraiser" was submitted to the town on June 21 and sent via email to the town board at noon on June 25 . . . that's the day before the special meeting was held, and five days, not the required 30, after submission.
Overby and Van Scoyoc both voted against the mass gathering, held to raise money for an out-of-town organization called Free Arts NYC. Stanzione said Friday that he voted to approve the gathering because "I did my due diligence and it's a just cause." He called Free Arts NYC "a highly respected philanthropic organization."
The Montauk Beach House was in the news last year, after Wilkinson was accused of giving the property's owners a sweetheart deal that allowed the construction of the uber-high end hotel to move forward and its pre-existing non-conforming use to allegedly expand.
There was new information revealed following the hasty adoption of approval, with yes votes from Wilkinson, Quigley and Stanzione. Quigley's daughter was just given a job at the Beach House. Quigley didn't recuse herself from the vote. Asked by The Independent if she consulted the town attorney's office as to whether she should have recused herself, Quigley answered, via email, with a terse, "Yes."
The Town's Ethics Code discusses "direct or indirect" pecuniary benefit accruing to a town officer as the result of a contract with the town. The code notes officers have an interest in contracts of spouses, minor children and dependents. It calls for the disclosure of interest, publicly, which means Quigley ought to have mentioned her daughter was just hired by the Beach House during discussion of the application.
She did not.