The last time the East Hampton Town Council met, members reviewed a draft ordinance for a no smoking policy at town parks. There also were updates on the renovations to the senior center and what will now be a gazebo at Sears Park instead of a band shell.
The East Hampton High School baseball team was on hand, too, as they were honored for winning the state title.
The meeting went quickly because business needed to be concluded in time for an executive session at 8 p.m. to discuss and vote on the proposed settlement package with Police Chief Matt Reimondo.
That was June 28. It’s been six weeks, but the town council will meet again Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. in the town hall meeting room.
The senior center and Sears Park gazebo are back on the agenda, and in case you are not aware, so to is the noise ordinance.
After six years of discussion, the town council seemingly quieted the noise ordinance issue once and for all at its April 12 meeting.
With most of the council concluding the ordinance would burden the police department, that police already had the authority to deal with noise complaints, and that there wasn’t much support for an ordinance that would affect much more than a single business (Angelico's Lake House Restaurant), five of the six members present made it clear they would not support one.
The one council member who still favored an ordinance, Sue Weintraub, had provided the council with a lengthy draft ordinance. Though praised for its thoroughness, one member thought it went too far and another didn’t like the way it portrayed the town.
With the other council members decidedly against the ordinance, Weintraub didn’t bother to put the issue to a vote, but she did not give up on the matter.
At the April 26 meeting, Weintraub asked the issue to be put on the May 10 agenda. Weintraub had spoken to assistant state’s attorney John Cashmon and wanted to share that information as well as discuss noise control options at the state level.
On May 10, the ordinance issue was back on the agenda.
Town Attorney Jean D”Aquila reviewed at the meeting her May 9 letter in response to a request from Reimondo. The Chief had asked D’Aquila for her legal opinion on the police department’s noise enforcement powers given that outdoor music at Angelico's is a permitted accessory use.
“We have two options, as I see it,” D’Aquila said then. “We can turn to the DEP’s office of noise control, which has a set of regulations that they enforce. We can turn to them for assistance. How deep the resources are within that department, I don’t know. That’s one option. The other option is the criminal [state] penal code in terms of excessive noise.”
Weintraub said that Cashmon told her there is a substantial burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and “On our part, there isn’t going to be a big effort.” Calling it a burden on the court, he said we usually don’t go forward with this type of case because “We don’t have the time for it.”
According to Weintraub, Cashmon thought a noise ordinance is the appropriate vehicle so that it can be dealt with within the community. He also said it shouldn’t be put in a criminal category.
It was pointed out that by writing an infraction, it would only go to court if appealed and it was suggested that, through the use of written warnings, a repeat offender would have a history, making it easier to prosecute should an eventual fine be appealed.
Weintraub countered that her research also showed that “DEP staff was being reduced with the budget being cut and they don’t have the personnel to go out and basically enforce the statutes on the book for noise control.”
“It kind of brings us back to looking at a noise ordinance,” Weintraub said.
Though discussed at length, the council as a whole seemed content that based on information from previous council meetings and from D'Aquila, the state statutes were sufficient.
“This council made a decision that we weren’t going to pursue a noise ordinance,” council member Thom Cordeiro said. “We’ve had numerous discussions in regards to that. … This is what our officers will have to enforce in the Town of East Hampton moving forward.”
“It just does not appear it will stand up in court if it is appealed,” Weintraub said.
“No one here is an attorney except Jean,” Cordeiro responded.
Said council member Chatham Carillo: “I agree with Tom. We’ve already made a decision on this matter.”
“So, if we get new information,” Weintraub said, “even though we’ve made a decision, and new information comes forward, we’re not going to change …”
“I believe this council, this body, has made a decision,” Carillo said.
Fast forward to June 14. Toward the end of the town council meeting, two letters concerning the noise ordinance the council had recently become aware of were raised. One was Cashmon’s June 10 response to a request from Chief Reimondo seeking his legal opinion, and the other was the Chief’s June 13 letter to Town Manager John Weichsel informing him that, based upon Cashmon’s ruling, “The East Hampton Police Department would not be issuing enforcement for loud music at [Angelico’s].”
Upon learning of the letters, D’Aquila called Cashmon. She gave an overview of that conversation at the council meeting.
“What he said basically was that he doesn’t think that 53a-181a, the infractions statute for creating a public disturbance, was really intended to deal with situations involving noise emanating from a restaurant where the outdoor entertainment is an accessory use to the property.”
D’Aquila said Cashmon really feels it should be handled on a local level.
“The bottom line is, this is a judgment being exercised by the state’s attorney’s office in Middlesex,” D’Aquila said. “If tickets were issued under this statute, they likely would not prosecute.
“In his view, he doesn’t think the statute was really meant to deal with a situation like this.”
With that, the noise ordinance was put back on the agenda. At the June 28 meeting, Weintraub presented the council with a revised draft of the ordinance for their review.
Just as the noise ordinance appeared dead back in April, it now appears very much alive.