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NOFO festival gets green light from state Supreme Court

Brian Ritchey of Nashville, one of the performers

Brian Ritchey of Nashville, one of the performers at the NOFO Rock & Folk Fest taking place on Saturday, July 31, 2010 and Sunday, Aug. 1, 2010 in Cutchogue. Photo Credit: Handout

This weekend's rock and folk music festival at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue is good to go, a State Supreme Court justice ruled Thursday.

After an all-day hearing that covered a variety of concerns, Justice Jeffrey Arlen Spinner ruled the Southold Town Board did not have the authority to change conditions on a permit issued by its own Zoning Board of Appeals.

The ZBA issued a permit June 11 to organizers of the NOFO Rock and Folk Festival. Last week, the town board issued a second, more restrictive permit after meetings were held to discuss the concert's impact on the community.

The restrictions placed limits on the number of cars and people who could attend, cut back the concert's duration - the last act was planned to start at 6 p.m. - and would have required promoters to pay about $6,000 for police costs to deal with traffic outside the winery.

Spinner, however, ruled in favor of the promoters and barred the town's bid to amend the original permit, saying it could not "eviscerate the decision of the zoning board."

Speaking after the decision, Jeff Silver, general manager of Peconic Bay Winery, said: "I think it's going to be a terrific show." He testified the vineyard would never have gotten involved in the concert or committed thousands of dollars to the event without a permit.

The winery has set up parking on 7 acres of land, and expects to have 11 private security workers on hand for the two-day event. While the promoters expect 600 to 800 people at the concert at any given time, Silver said, as of Thursday morning, just 533 tickets had been sold.

The NOFO concert will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's performers include Richie Havens, Big Suga and Mountain featuring Leslie West. Sunday features Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna, the Smithereens and Miles to Dayton.

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said the town would not appeal, but added it will take steps to assert greater control over special events like rock concerts.

"It's very clear there will have to be substantial changes in our special events legislation. That might not be in the best interests of the wineries, but they will have to take that up with Mr. Silver," he said.

Silver said he and the other winery operators look forward to working with Southold on those legislative changes.

Southold and Riverhead - the two North Fork towns with the greatest concentration of Long Island's wineries - have been trying to find ways to control special events on the properties, while not harming what has become a $300 million business for the region.

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