Town Poised to Nix For-Profit Race Events On Area Roads

The Southold Town board has agreed to put the brakes on any for-profit race or bike ride on local roads.

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said organized races and bike rides require additional manpower.
Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said organized races and bike rides require additional manpower.
Southold Town continued in its quest on Tuesday to limit the number of bike and race events scheduled for town roads.

At its work session on Tuesday, Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell discussed a draft of proposed changes that would put the brakes on any for-profit bike or race event.

"The idea of putting an end to private, money-making events on public roads will not be without controversy," Russell said. "Some of these events are very popular."

The goal, the supervisor said, is to allow only events organized for charitable purposes.

Councilwoman Louisa Evans asked about for-profit events that have already received the green light for the current season and suggested the new policy go into effect in 2014.

Both Russell and Councilwoman Jill Doherty agreed those events that had already been approved should be "grandfathered in" for the current season but said the policy should go into effect for the current year.

Even charitable events will be limited to 600 participants moving forward, the new policy states.

In addition, language of the new policy will be tweaked to allow for events on holidays but in limited numbers. Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said holiday weekends are a particularly difficult time to stage such events, because they require an influx of additional manpower.

Officers who are directing bikes, he said, are faced with a situation similar to having "1000 other cars on the road," with accidents possible, he said.

Flatley came before the Southold Town board last month to explain that the number of requests for bike rides and 5K events was spiraling and seek answers.

"It's becoming an unmanageable situation with these rides," Russell said.

Some not-for-profit events, which have a "redeeming larger social purpose," have been given the green light in the past but now, a growing number of for-profit event organizers have asked to use Southold roads, Russell said.

Flatley said the number of event requests is growing -- and the number of participants who take part in annual events is swelling, sometimes to over 1000 per event.

Just a cost analysis, Flatley said, is not indicative of the resources utilized by the police department for the events. Not only are officers needed during the first hour of the events to organize runners or bikers, but there is "hidden activity" involved, including motor vehicle accidents and aided cases when someone falls off a bike.

"We're looking for direction," Flatley said.

Russell said there is a need to "start putting something on the table" and establish criteria.

Some groups are actually advertising that they have outgrown areas including Riverhead and points west, Flatley said, and host events in Southold "because there's more room on the road. A lot of rides that took place in more congested areas on Nassau or Suffolk County are looking to the North Fork," he said.

Some events, such as the ALS "Ride For Life," are different, Flatley said, because they work with Southold High School or other local groups; the ALS event is a power wheelchair awareness ride, he said, and is a community event with only about 50 participants. The board approved that May 6 event at their Tuesday night town board meeting.

Councilman Bill Ruland said a policy must be developed regarding priorities for events.

Ruland said events that offer no benefit to the town should not be granted permits and that guidelines should be established in fairness to all.

Local business owners and residents, Ruland added, are inconvenienced by event participants who use local bathroom facilities and spark traffic woes without frequenting area shops or eateries.

Events such as 5Ks require twice as much manpower, Flatley said, because streets need to be shut down to make the routes safe for runners. Other events, scheduled for holiday weekends, are problematic, he said.

Russell suggested blackout dates be established, and said criteria was critical.

"If you're just looking to make money, there's no reason for you to come to Southold," he said. "We have public health, safety and welfare to consider. We have a right to deny applications."

Evans said the challenge is that many events raise money for good causes.

"We've got to draw the line somewhere," Talbot said.

Russell said the board would adopt the legislation with an eye toward initiating changes for the current season.
Jonathan Baker April 25, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Nothing in this article provides the reader with factual data to support the positions of Captain Flatley, town supervisor Scott Russell and the town board. Why is that? Weren't any data presented by Captain Flatley or Supervisor Russell? As an example, without hard data it is impossible to agree or disagree with Captain Flatley on what he sees as "the number of requests for bike rides and 5K events was spiraling". Why has Supervisor Russell decided to put the brakes on any for-profit bike or race event? Have citizens and businesses in town complained to the board regarding for-profit bike or race events? Will there be a follow-up article presenting the data behind the positions held by Captain Flatley and Supervisor Russell?


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