That’s entertainment? In Ghent it may need permit

GHENT–The Town Board discussed a proposed new local law last week that would regulate concerts, exhibitions and festivals. Members of the town Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals were also invited to participate.

Town Attorney Ted Guterman told the board at the February 7 workshop meeting that the proposed law would allow concerts, festivals and competitions under certain limited circumstances. The current draft states that anyone proposing to hold such an event must first apply for a temporary special permit from the Planning Board. The event would be subject to 10 requirements stated in the local law. Among others, these requirements include:

A limit of two days per year. This can be two different one-day events or one event that lasts two days

The applicant must notify the relevant fire departments, police agencies, the Columbia County Health Department and emergency management agencies

The Planning Board would have the authority to regulate the hours of the event

Applicants would have to meet public safety, including fire and police protection and other safety and security precautions

Applicants would also have to apply for a new special permit each time they want to hold an event. The Planning Board would have the authority to deny a permit to an applicant who has failed to comply with requirements of the law in the past.

The law defines a concert as “a program of vocal or instrumental music,” an exhibition as “a show or display for entertainment or competition,” and a festival as “an occasion or event or celebration including cultural performances.”

Mr. Guterman said that while the town does not allow racetracks, this law would allow for temporary courses in connection with a permitted festival or exhibition. However, Guterman said those temporary courses must “be completely dismantled immediately after the event is concluded.” He said the proposed law is a work in progress.

“Tonight’s meeting is just for discussion,” added Town Supervisor Larry Andrews. “It’s a local law, so we will certainly have a public hearing before any of these changes are made.”

Mr. Guterman said that a private parties held at a private residence would not be affected if the law is adopted because those types of gatherings would be considered an accessory of use of the residence. But a party that is open to the public would be considered a regulated use under the proposed law.

Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Mark Huston asked whether personal riding trails would be affected by the new code.

“Trails are not part of this,” replied Mr. Guterman. “That is basically an accessory use for your own property.”

He said residents would be free to ride their snowmobiles and ATVs on their own trails. But it would fall under the new law if a large number of people were to use the trails, Mr. Guterman said.

He added that religious events held by churches and art displays held by Art Omi would not be affected by this law, since they already hold permits to do those things.

A resident voiced concern regarding noise from festivals. Mr. Guterman said he had thought about the noise issue but regulating noise under this category would be difficult because it would unintentionally affect other, unrelated uses in the town.

Planning Board member Aaron Groom wondered how the new law would affect the Ghent Band. He said that during the summer, the Ghent Band usually plays every Friday night at the Ghent VFW. Under the new law, this would be considered a concert or a festival and limited to twice a year.

“It looks like we have to do some tweaking,” said Mr. Andrews.

Also in attendance was Carmen Nero, owner of the Meadowgreens Golf Course and Resort in West Ghent.

“I hope the law works and is good for the community,” said Mr. Nero. “I hope the laws can be made to suit what I like to do there.”

Mr. Nero’s business was in the middle of a controversy issue a year ago when he sought to hold motocross racing events and other activities that did not comply with town zoning code. Many residents opposed the idea, citing noise concerns. In March of last year, the Town Board decided not to amend the town’s zoning code to allow motorcycle racing.

During last week’s discussion, Mr. Andrews said that the motocross case caused the town to look into what activities should be allowed.

“There are certain activities that lend themselves to the rural nature of our town that have happened in the past,” said Mr. Andrews. “I think the purpose of what we’re doing now is to sort through and maintain some of those activities that probably should be allowed.”


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