GHENT–The town held a public hearing last week on a proposed local law regulating concerts, exhibitions and festivals by requiring special use permits and imposing new restrictions. The proposal would also increase the penalties for violating the town zoning code.
The latest draft, sparked by several recent events held or proposed in town, including a rock concert two years ago, would allow a town resident to hold events that fall under the proposed definitions of concerts, festivals and exhibitions. But it would require that the resident first obtain a special permit from the Planning Board and would set a limit of two events per calendar year at any one site, with no event lasting longer than two days. The law would ban racetracks except for temporary courses that can be immediately dismantled following an event.
“It prohibits having a racetrack in the Town of Ghent, but it doesn’t prohibit certain limited motorized racing events, provided they’re temporary,” said Town Attorney Ted Guterman.
Mr. Guterman said each permit would apply only to a single approved event. In addition to obtaining a special permit and undergoing a site plan review by the Planning Board, the applicant would need to notify all relevant fire and police departments, as well as the county Health Department. The proposed law also states that the applicant “must demonstrate adequate measures have been taken in connection with fire protection, crowd security, police protection, public safety, traffic regulation, parking, sanitary facilities, adequate water supply, garbage disposal, emergency evacuation plan, first aid, and cleanup.” Additionally, the applicant would have to obtain adequate insurance, and may also be required by the town to post a bond.
Events would have to be at least 300 feet from adjoining properties. The Planning Board would also have the power to set hours for each event. “That’s particularly important to prevent noises late at night,” said Mr. Guterman.
He said the Planning Board could waive any requirements in the law. “This is particularly applicable in smaller events which do not typically require as much regulation as larger events,” said Mr. Guterman.
The board could deny an applicant a special permit if the applicant has failed to adhere to the regulations during previous events.
Permits would not be required for three categories of events:
•Events held by the town or by town fire companies
•Concerts lasting less than 3 hours and attended by fewer than 500 people
•Automobile shows where the displays are stationary. Automobile shows could occur up to three times in a year without a permit. To hold a fourth, a special permit would be required.
Under the proposal, penalties would increase from a maximum of $350 to $1,000 for a first offense and from $700 to $5,000 for a third violation. Mr. Guterman said the current penalties are not enough of a deterrent and that the Planning board had requested the change.
Carmen Nero, co-owner of Meadowgreens Golf Course, asked about what the law would mean for a restaurant or commercial establishment that holds weddings. Town Supervisor Larry Andrews said that weddings are an accessory use to those types of businesses and therefore not affected by the proposal. Small private parties held at a residence not open to the public would also be exempt as accessory uses.
Michael Zibella asked whether the 300-foot setback would be necessary where there is a natural barrier. Mr. Guterman said the Planning Board has the authority to waive requirements, but added that “it could be a noise issue as well as a barrier issue.”
Ghent resident Patti Matheney said there should be something more in the law to regulate noise.
But Mr. Guterman responded, “The biggest concern I have for regulating noise is you’re going to catch other categories, like people mowing their lawns or other agricultural uses.”
Ghent resident Larry Testa asked how this law would apply to the music festival that occurred two years ago, where drug arrests were reported and neighbors complained of loud noise.
Mr. Guterman said that under this law, an event like that could apply. He said the difference is that the town did not regulate the 2011 concert. This law would give Ghent officials the ability to do so, he said.
“It has the possibility of being allowed under this law,” he said. “We didn’t have this law before to regulate that.”
Koethi Zan said there should be more in the law that allows the Planning Board to deny certain events, even if they meet all of the requirements. “For example, what if the KKK wanted to have a big event here in Ghent?” said Ms. Zan. “There’s nothing stopping it.”
Mr. Andrews said the permit review process would include a public hearing. “The Planning Board would hear your desires and concerns, and then make a decision based on good judgment,” he said.
Glenn and Cindy Van Alstyne asked whether the ban on racetracks would include tracks made for ATVs. Mr. Guterman said it would depend on how the property was developed. “If people have a large piece of property and they have trails through the woods and they’re going through those on their ATVs, then it doesn’t fall under this definition,” said Mr. Guterman.
But if the trails are made into a course for racing, then it is not permitted under the new law.
Mr. Guterman said he will make “three or four minor adjustments” to the proposal based on feedback he received during the public hearing and have the next draft sent to the county for review. Mr. Andrews scheduled another public hearing regarding the law for July 18 at 7 p.m.
Also at the June 20 board meeting:
•Ghent’s Zoning Enforcement Officer Gil Raab said the town did a site inspection at TCI of NY in West Ghent last week and found that “very little if anything is going on there.” He said there is an office with employees, but “other than that it’s clean.”
There is currently pending litigation between the Town and TCI, after the company filed a lawsuit against Ghent earlier this year. Mr. Andrews said there is an oral argument scheduled for July 8, but that a letter has been sent by the town requesting that the court reschedule for an earlier date.
•Mr. Guterman said that Price Chopper is “anxious” for construction of the new store to start in July. He said the town has done everything it needs to do, but that the company and the Village of Chatham are still finalizing agreements.
“We’re just on the sidelines waiting for those agreements to be finalized,” he said. “Once that happens, they’re going to pull their building permit and want to start building in July.”
•Highway Superintendent Mike Losa said Arch Bridge Road will be closed at the arch from July 1 to July 31 to make improvements to the roadway under the arch.