Sparked by complaints over noise, trash and traffic resulting from outdoor volleyball games in residential neighborhoods of Springs, proposed legislation before the East Hampton Town Board seeks to limit gatherings—indoors or outdoors, athletic or otherwise—to 15 people no more than three times a month.
The proposal, spearheaded by Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, the board’s Springs liaison, failed last week to move toward a public hearing, after board members Peter Van Scoyoc and Sylvia Overby said they would like more time to discuss the issue and gather feedback from residents.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we have to legislate common sense. I really do,” Ms. Quigley said in a phone interview on Monday. “Having people at your house is a social issue and we’re social beings, but having your property in essence turn into a gathering five nights a week is not appropriate. It disturbs the neighborhood.”
As the hamlet with the largest number of year-round residents in East Hampton Town and the most house lots under one acre, “Springs tends to feel the brunt of a neighbor who’s unneighborly,” she said.
In an effort to encourage residents to gather instead at public playing fields and recreational spaces, Ms. Quigley had town planning officials identify such sites and plot them on a map for presentation at a Town Board work session last week. The nine sites—soccer fields on Stephen Hand’s Path in Wainscott, the Pantigo baseball fields in East Hampton, the Terry King ballfield, Bistrian Land Corporation and Fresh Pond Park in Amagansett, the Maidstone ballfield in Springs, and Benson Point, Lions Field and Camp Hero in Montauk—are nicely spread throughout town, she pointed out to the board, but she added that she did not know what it would take to make them available to everyone all the time.
Should the town clamp down on gatherings in residential areas, it would have to provide adequate space elsewhere to meet the need to get together and socialize, she noted.
Ms. Quigley said she believes the proposed number of people and times someone could host an event per month were low, but said it was intentionally so, because the town can more easily adjust it to make the requirements less stringent following a public hearing. To make it more stringent would require another notice of public hearing to be issued, among other steps.
Enforcement of the law, should it be adopted, would be complaint driven. Upon a first complaint, Pat Gunn, the town’s public safety administrator, would inform the alleged offender of the law and give the offender a flier indicating the places where people can congregate and have organized activities, Ms. Quigley told the board.
Penalties have not yet been discussed, she said this week.
Mr. Van Scoyoc said he felt it was important to note that a number of the parks presented as possible public alternatives are not equipped for volleyball.
“Given the popularity of the sport in the town, perhaps we should be creating some additional venues for people to hold volleyball games in a public park,” he said.
The Terry King park, for example, might be an ideal place to dedicate to volleyball, he suggested, because its tennis courts are in disrepair.
He also said he had a problem supporting the law, as is, because it also pertains to indoor activity.
“It’s in essence taking the mass-gathering permits from 50 to 15,” Ms. Overby said, referring to the minimum number of participants needed to require a mass-gathering permit under the Town Code.
Connie Kenney, a Springs resident who has been outspoken about the issue, urged the Town Board to adopt an even tougher measure, limiting outdoor sporting events to once a month and requiring homeowners who throw such events to clean up afterward, including across the street from the event.
A lot of vacant lots become receptacles for garbage, she said.
“The broken beer bottles, strewn cans and just plan litter has defaced our neighborhood for too long,” she said. “I’m simply asking for mutual courtesy and respect for all.”