The Rhinebeck Resident: Consideration needed for proposed Village of Rhinebeck Events Code

The Rhinebeck Resident

Postings of Village/Town Topics

By Rhinebeck resident and former Village planning board member Debi Duke.

January 18th, 2012

Village of Rhinebeck Events Code

The next public meeting about the proposed Village events code is Tues., Jan. 24, 6 p.m. If you live in the Village and are concerned about the lack of guidelines for managing large events, please show up and speak up.

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the proposal’s goals, and a concerted effort to scuttle it. The board devised the code in response to real issues raised by real people. It aims to:

(1) Protect those who attend large gatherings by making sure appropriate emergency plans are in place, and (2) Protect Village residents from event “exhaustion.” Contrary to some reports, e.g., Poughkeepsie Journal, Dec. 15, 2011, the proposal does not cap attendance at the fair or any other event.

The events code as currently proposed would require any entity holding a large event, would apply for a permit. There are various exceptions and nuances, but the general idea is to have a process that allows the Village planning board to ensure that public safety and quality of life issues are addressed by those hosting large events.

My own feeling is that while the events code goes a long way toward addressing some very real problems, it isn’t the only way to achieve the goals. Reasonable steps can be taken to create the sort of balance we all want. Here’s my list as a starting place for discussion:

1.  Traffic and dust. The fairgrounds has a major entrance on Route 9; why can’t that entrance be used for all truck traffic, deliveries, and the like, rather than residential streets? Currently trucks of all sizes drive through residential streets at all hours for days before, during, and after large events. This brings noise, makes streets less safe, and damages the roadbed.

During events that attract substantial numbers of vehicles, traffic needs to be managed around the clock and it should be very clear whose responsibility it is to do so. That might include placing electronic speed monitors, hiring public safety staff to ensure compliance, and posting signs to help maintain safe conditions on neighborhood streets.

2. Access for emergency vehicles. Two recent occurrences suggest that when particularly large events are scheduled, alternative parking plans and/or shuttle services may be needed. The first example is this past December’s Sinterklass celebration when parking and traffic were so heavy that my street, Platt Avenue, was effectively impassable; this was especially troubling because it was dark and there were many children. The second example is two or three years ago when heavy rains made the fairgrounds’ parking lots unusable on the final day of the fair resulting in no parking signs being ignored throughout the Village.

3.  Noise. Limits could be placed on the hours loudspeaker systems are used. Permanent systems could be engineered to direct sound within the fairgrounds and away from surrounding neighborhoods. We might also consider limiting the number of events that are noisy and not inherently agricultural.

Alternatively, the nosiest events might be moved to the north side of the fairgrounds away from residential neighborhoods. If/when the fairgrounds’ bandstand is replaced, it could be designed and located so that sound is aimed away from adjacent residential neighborhoods. Customary musical events, such as concerts at the fair and on the 4th of July, could be exempt.

4.  Light. As with noise, there could be time limits on bright lights and all outdoor lighting could be engineered to direct light downward and into the event locale, not out in all directions.

5.  Appearance. Events often bring many vehicles and other equipment that is parked or stored.  Areas that are used repeatedly in this way and abut residential neighborhoods could be screened with an aesthetically pleasing buffer, such as trees and shrubs.

A final area of concern specific to the fairgrounds is future changes in appearance. We’ve all noticed changes such as eviction of horses from the horse barns and “modernization” of the food booths, which occurred without community input. I understand that the Village has properly asserted that going forward the fairgrounds must comply with Village zoning regulations – a welcome change which will allow for input on these kinds of decisions in the future.