At the Northport Village board of trustees meeting this past Tuesday, September 20, Trustee Dave Weber initiated a walk-on resolution that would, if approved, allow Copenhagen Bakery to continue outdoor music for the next six Saturdays, from 10am-2:30pm. The bakery was given a Village code violation last month, after a resident’s complaints prompted Village officials to stop the outdoor performances.
Uniform New York rules controlling villages allow for a board member to put up a motion to add an item, such as a resolution, to a meeting’s agenda. If the motion is seconded by another board member, the item is placed on the agenda for a vote. According to the NYCOM (New York Conference of Mayors) Handbook for Village Officials, “Adopting a resolution requires the least amount of procedural formality. Unless otherwise required by State Law, resolutions may be adopted without any waiting period, without notifying the public, and without holding a public hearing. Resolutions may be introduced and passed at the same meeting and unless otherwise stated, take effect immediately.”
The request for a walk-on resolution by Trustee Weber began a debate between all board members regarding outdoor music in the Village and whether or not the board should grant any allowances. Trustee Weber highlighted the current Village code, which states that the “installation, use or maintenance of radios, speakers, televisions or like apparatus and live entertainment shall be prohibited in outdoor dining areas, unless separately authorized by resolution of the Board of Trustees.”
Trustee Weber explained that Flemming Hansen, the property owner and operator of Copenhagen Bakery and Cafe, has a unique standalone property with parking lots on both sides of the building. “By allowing this one business the use of live entertainment, which we know the public wants, is not boxing us into a hole where we have to allow it for every single property owner or business,” he said.
Trustee Joe Sabia and Mayor Donna Koch said the board should spend the winter writing new code regarding live music (and outdoor dining), with a permit process in place that requires the business owner to come to the board for approval. “We have to write a code and a law with restrictions in it,” Trustee Sabia said.
Trustee Weber then reiterated the current code, which states that allowances can be made if “separately authorized by resolution of the Board of Trustees,” He asked again for a resolution to authorize the outdoor music.
Mayor Koch explained that the Village cannot give one business permission for outdoor music because others might ask for it too. “It’s a snowball effect that will take place, and it can come all the way up to Rockin’ Fish,” she said. Outdoor music as a whole, she continued, by speakers or live entertainment, needs to be looked into, addressed and curtailed because the noise would be “another layer of the over usage of the downtown area.”
“I am 100% for the businesses, I like them to thrive,” Mayor Koch said. “I like to see stores that are open and functioning and not an empty storefront; we want the businesses to succeed. But when a business is next door to a residential area, and I get complaints from the residents, I have to respond to it, and that’s what I feel I’m doing.”
Trustee Meghan Dolan supported the idea of a walk-on resolution. “I do think there has to be consideration and a reasonable balance between one resident’s complaint, compliance with the code, and other residents who have contacted us, who have come here, who have made public comments elsewhere that this is something that people want,” she said. The board has an obligation to consider these factors, she added, especially because it’s an opportunity to support the arts and add to the ambience of the village. “I would like to vote on it tonight,” she said.
Village Attorney Ed Gathman noted that no one had formally come to the board requesting permission for outdoor music. “I think it’s a little unusual to put a resolution on about someone’s particular property without them requesting it,” he said. Trustee Weber explained that he was speaking on behalf of Mr. Hansen, who made the request to him personally.
Trustee Ernie Pucillo asked if the board could, instead, put up a resolution requiring that businesses wishing to play music submit a permit to the board; Mayor Koch replied that it would require a code change, which could be done over the winter when they reevaluate outdoor dining and music.
When Trustee Weber asked one last time to read the resolution he wrote into the record and have a vote on it, Mayor Koch denied him. “We’re moving on,” she said.