MAHOPAC N.Y. — The Carmel Town Board said it is moving forward with legislation that will call for permits for parades and other special events that result in street closures, but will not charge a fee for them.
The proposed local law, entitled “Parades, Events and Street Closings,” is designed to ensure the “order, conduct and safety of residents and property” during the myriad parades and events, such as street fairs and fundraisers, that take place throughout the year in Carmel and the hamlet of Mahopac.
Board members said that the creation of the law came at the behest of the Carmel Police Department several years ago because the number of such events has grown over the past several years and has created logistic and manpower issues for the cops.
However, parade and event organizers, as well as Greater Carmel/Mahopac Chamber of Commerce representatives, came out to a public hearing on the code amendments back in January and told the board that while they could appreciate the need for a permitting process, charging fees would effectively put an end to many of the events, especially those run by nonprofits and those used as fundraisers.
“A majority of our parade committee feels there is no need for this law to go into effect,” Patrick O’Malley, chair of Northern Westchester/Putnam St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said during the January public hearing. “We raise most of the money ourselves and the business community supports us. This would crush us and we wouldn’t be able to throw a parade in Putnam County. We would have to look elsewhere. This is what we already pay our taxes for—public safety.”
Supervisor Ken Schmitt explained during the public hearing that it was the police department that requested the proposed law, not the Town Board.
“The town of Carmel Police Department drafted it and has been working on it for years,” Schmitt said. “They felt it was necessary from a law enforcement point of view. A lot of this has to do with safety. The Town Board has a very small part [in creating the law]. We love that this community has all these events, but there has to be some controls in place.”
Councilman Frank Lombardi told the audience at the January public hearing that the permitting process would be helpful to the police because sometimes two events are scheduled on the same day, which creates a logistic problem for the law enforcement agency.
“There have been a couple of times when we have had multiple events going on at the same time,” he said. “This would help create an event calendar and let the police know that on a certain date there is the potential for multiple events.”
Faith Ann Butcher, spokesperson for the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber of Commerce, said during the public hearing that area businesses rely on these events to attract potential customers.
[Editor’s Note: In the interest of full disclosure, Faith Ann Butcher is the production manager at Halston Media, which publishes Mahopac News.]
“Businesses rely on these events to bring people in. If you’ve ever looked into a business after these events most of the restaurants are busy,” she said. “All these events are the reason I moved up here. It’s what makes a community.”
At last week’s meeting, the board said that it would leave a fee schedule in the code, but would list the current fee at zero dollars. They said they would leave the fee schedule in the proposed legislation in case future town boards decide they would like to charge a fee.
“This goes back about five or six years that we have been working on this,” Supervisor Ken Schmitt said. “We believe we came up with a pretty good working document. [Event organizers] will have to fill out an application and explain the type of event.”
Schmitt added that Carmel/Mahopac has so many of these types of events, including festivities such as the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Columbus Day parade, the various fire department events and street fairs, some semblance of order was needed.
“We want to continue to have these events, but we did need an ordinance,” he said. “They will have to give us their intentions. [The application] is very detailed.”
Schmitt emphasized that while the fee schedule would remain in the ordinance, “we have no intention of including additional fees.”
“But we will leave it in there for future town boards who want to consider setting a fee,” the supervisor said.
Councilman John Lupinacci said he was originally opposed to leaving the fee schedule in the code, but later changed his mind.
“I thought we should take it out, but then it was brought to my attention they would have to have another public hearing [if a future board wanted to amend the code again],” he said.
The board said the matter would be placed on its July 27 agenda to obtain more feedback from the public before it crafts the final wording of the new code.