By Kathryn G. Menu
A group of Amagansett residents who banded under the association “Residents to Rescind the Rock Permit” have filed suit against the Town Board of East Hampton, as well as individuals associated with the MTK: Music to Know Summer Music Festival. The suit is an attempt to force the town to rescind a commercial mass gathering permit it approved to allow the weekend-long music festival to take place this August at Ocean View Farm in Amagansett.
The association’s attorney, Jeffrey Bragman, filed the Article 78 proceeding in Suffolk County’s New York State Supreme Court on Friday, March 18.
It is the latest move in an ongoing debate between a group of Amagansett residents and the town board over their approval of a permit in December that would allow the festival, which will feature 20 bands with 9,500 concert attendees from August 12 through August 14, at farmland on Montauk Highway just outside of Amagansett village.
Sag Harbor residents Chris Jones and Bill Collage, whose company has promised a $100,000 charitable donation to local not-for-profits, conceived the festival as an event featuring contemporary music, as well as local food, wine, a beer garden, retail booths and an area for children.
However, since the permit was approved in December, some residents have been protesting the event, questioning both the process the town board used to grant the permit and citing concerns about traffic, parking and safety at the site. Several residents publicly questioned the kinds of people the festival would attract to the hamlet, with some envisioning a Woodstock-like deluge of young people.
In response to the outcry, last month Jones and Collage filed an application for a second commercial mass gathering permit to host the festival on land at the town-owned East Hampton Airport.
The town board reviewed that proposal last week, but has yet to formally rule on the application.
On Wednesday, Bragman said that his clients remain concerned that Ocean View Farm could still end up being the location of the festival.
He added that the process by which the town board approved the original permit was “seriously flawed.”
“It is appropriate to challenge it because we want to make sure the town follows procedures in a lawful and orderly manner,” said Bragman.
While Jones is named in the suit, Bragman said that was simply because by law the applicant must be named, but that the suit specifically challenges the process the board used to approve the permit.
In the suit, Bragman argues that commercial mass gathering permits cannot be issued for events taking place on private property, such as Ocean View Farm, and that hosting a commercial event on private property is against the town’s own code.
He also states the town board failed to conduct an environmental review of the proposal looking at potential impacts related to parking, noise, traffic, lighting, emergency services and other issues, which Bragman contends is required under state law.
Bragman also argues the town did not require a complete application be submitted before it approved the event and did not circulate a copy of the application to involved town agencies or post a public notice — all violations of the mass gathering permit law.
The suit asks that the court grant preliminary and permanent injunctions prohibiting any rock festival under the existing commercial mass gathering permit, that the permit be annulled, and should the town or applicant pursue the rock festival further they be required to abide by all state and town laws, including the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
While Jones declined comment on the lawsuit, he did say that in trying to organize a contemporary music festival, the company has employed 36 people, many local. He added that he was poised to sign a lease on vacant office space in Sag Harbor all the while receiving ample public support, and now he has been sued.
“It’s disheartening,” he said.