Southampton officials are tightening the rules for issuing special-event permits to keep event organizers and residents from taking advantage of the policy by hosting multiple events with one permit.
The town clerk's office issues about 100 permits annually, especially in the summer, for events including fundraisers for politicians, national charities and animal rescue groups, as well as carnivals, concerts and the annual Hampton Classic.
Residents and organizers are limited to holding two permit events a year, but that's not enough for some.
"Certain event organizers and property owners may, in an attempt to evade yearly limitations . . . hold simultaneous events at exactly the same location," town officials noted.
Southampton does not keep records on how often this happens, but officials said the town does receive complaints about repeated parties in big tents on the side of busy roads or behind tall, elegant hedges at private homes.
"It's happened in the past," said Councilwoman Christine Scalera, who drafted changes that will be the subject of a Feb. 11 public hearing. "It happens sometimes more than others. We're trying to be balanced and fair. We don't want to hurt organizations that do a lot of stuff out here."
Violators can face fines of up to $2,000 and a year in jail. Repeat violations carry minimum fines of $2,500 and up to $10,000. Each day a violation occurs can be considered a separate offense.
The town wants to clarify its rules so that two fundraisers held simultaneously in the same venue count as two separate events -- the property owner's annual limit. It would allow a third fundraiser exclusively for local charities, but the town attorney's office has cautioned that some groups might not be able to hold such an event depending on their nonprofit status under New York State law.
One proposed change to make holding special events easier would extend the pre-event time to erect tents and other structures from five days to 14, and give sponsors seven days after the event to remove the structures, instead of the current three days.
Special events in Southampton go beyond A-list cocktail parties in big tents. There are carnivals, concerts and other activities. The now-legendary All for the Sea concerts on the great lawn at Southampton College once drew more than 7,000 people, and the most successful ones raised nearly $2 million for the school's marine science program in just one night.
The Hampton Classic, the annual weeklong equestrian competition that has been held for nearly 40 years, can attract 50,000 or more people to Bridgehampton. It is the town's biggest ongoing special event and requires a new permit each year.
Large fundraising parties and other special events such as carnivals and concerts are some of the things that make Southampton and neighboring East Hampton special, officials said.
"They're a critical part of our summer landscape," Southampton Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said. "We need to have a balance on quality-of-life aspects, but . . . they really do raise a lot of money in the summer, and people like them."
Getting a special-event permit in Southampton isn't always simple, or cheap.
$50: The town's minimum cost for a special-event permit good for one day and for an event with fewer than 250 people. There is an additional $25 fee for each day of setup.
$200: The most expensive permit for events that last several days and have more than 500 attendees. There is an additional fee of $100 for each day of setup.