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Village Trustee Carol Hannan sent a letter to BSG's board of directors on Monday, April 4 expressing her "anger" over statements made by BSG President Eric May during a recent village board meeting.

On Wednesday, March 23, the Village of Brockport's board of trustees voted unanimously to exempt BSG's spring concert with the Goo Goo Dolls from the village noise ordinance. Hannan said in her letter that the board's decision was "based in large part" on May's claim that Brockport Police Chief Daniel Varrenti supports the event.

At the board meeting, May said Varrenti is "supportive [of the event] in terms of logistics," and that the police chief considers the concert to be "logistically sound."  May also said in a later interview that he informed the board that Varrenti was "unhappy" with the concert's venue and time.

Varrenti refuted these claims, stating that in two separate meetings with BSG — one that included University Police — he expressed his disapproval of an outside concert.  Varrenti said he stated both times that a concert with 4,000 people on Palm Sunday, April 17, "should not go on."  Palm Sunday is a Christian holiday and many people in the village are likely to be outdoors at the time of the concert.

In her letter, Hannan questioned actions May took prior to and during the board meeting.

"Was it your organization's intent to set a precedent while our police chief was absent, our attorney was caught unaware and our board members were left uninformed?" Hannan asked.

Hannan said Trustees Scott Hunsinger and Kent Blair "concur" with her "sentiments."

May said Varrenti knew the issue was going to be discussed at the board meeting, so the chief's absence shouldn't have mattered.

Later in the letter, Hannan said, "In previous conversations with Trustee Hunsinger, Mr. May never mentioned his intent to bring into play … an exemption of the noise ordinance."

May said the letter was "shocking," especially since the board voted unanimously on the decision. He said he submitted his proposal to the agenda on March 18, which clearly stated that May planned to "request exemption from the noise ordinance."

May said he tried to contact Hannan shortly after the BSG board received the letter, but did not receive a response by press time Monday, April 11.

Hannan said in a separate interview that it was Varrenti's apparent approval that caused her to vote in favor of the concert.

"Had he (Varrenti) been there and said that [he disapproved of the event], I wouldn't have voted for it," Hannan said.

Despite the fact that the board's decision was based on allegedly inaccurate information, members of the board decided they will not rescind the motion.

"The idea has crossed the mind of more than one trustee, but it's too late to cancel the event, as it would not be appropriate," Hannan said.

May stated in an email that he had hoped the meeting would improve the relationship between the village and the college.

"I clearly stated that the purpose of requesting a suspension of the noise ordinance was to reinforce my respect for the village and the board, despite being legally exempt," May said.

May also said in an earlier meeting with James Butler, the Town of Sweden code enforcer, Butler said the concert is exempt from the noise ordinance, as it's part of a state-chartered school. May said he still went to the board in hopes of improving the relationship between the village and the college.

Hannan said May's actions have had the opposite effect.

"A lot of harm has been done," she said. "It certainly will affect future relations with the college. I absolutely won't be voting for Glow Fest 2."

May claimed it wasn't his intent to mislead the board, claiming Hannan's judgments were unfair, as he never lied to the board and his "intentions were clearly stated." He also claimed that "it's unfair to make such a judgement prior to the event occurring."

Varrenti has stated that even though the concert will be exempt from the noise ordinance, if it disturbs the peace, the Brockport Police Department (BPD) will be forced  to take action.

In a meeting with BSG Programming Director Matt Vogt, Varrenti said the BPD could "potentially have to shut down the concert — and make arrests."  

Varrenti said that in a separate meeting with May, he acknowledged BSG's attempts at reducing noise pollution, but that shouldn't have indicated any level of support.  

"That was in no way, shape or form me endorsing the event … He put things in place, which in my opinion, makes a bad situation as good as it can be. But it doesn't mean it's a good situation."

The steps BSG has taken include choosing a venue that is deeper within campus and surrounded by a tree line, which is expected to absorb much of the noise.

Varrenti said the meeting was so close to the event that it seemed May would pursue the concert regardless of what he and the other officers said.

"To talk about the concerns I had then and still have now, at such a late juncture was clearly just going through a formality," Varrenti said.

Varrenti pointed out that the village attorney said that the concert may be exempt from the local noise ordinance, which was also a contributing factor to the board's decision.

Section 55-3 A of the village code prohibits any "person with the intent to cause public inconvenience" from making "unreasonable noise."  

But there is an exception in the law for "the operation" of devices by a "school licensed or chartered by the State of New York."

Varrenti said this does not apply to the concert, as it is put on by BSG and not the college itself.

"BSG is not a school chartered by the state of New York. It is an entity within that school, but it's not the school," Varrenti said.

The law was put into place in order to satisfy events such as football games, which create a considerable amount of noise, not to allow BSG "the unilateral power to hold an event anytime anywhere," Varrenti said.

May said this is Varrenti's opinion, and that the concert is not different from a football game.

"Where are you going to draw the line?" May asked. "Noise is noise. It shouldn't matter if it's a concert or a football game, both are services to the students."

Varrenti also said that despite exemption from the local law, the concert would still be subject to the disorderly conduct law, a state law.

Sub-section 2 of section 240.20 of the New York State Penal Law states, "A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm or recklessly creating a risk thereof: He makes unreasonable noise."

According to Varrenti, the spring concert has a high likelihood of breaking that law, and that holding such a concert "is doing exactly what that law said don't do."

Varrenti also said that he will enforce the law, but only if necessary.

"I have no problem enforcing this state penal law if in fact an event, any event, makes it annoying to the public of Brockport," he said. "The event [could] be shut down. And if this event violates the [disorderly conduct] law, anyone and everyone who had a hand in creating that problem will be held accountable.

We don't write the laws, we just enforce them. If we don't get any complaints, I don't have any interest in taking action."

Though Varrenti is committed to shutting down the concert if necessary, he said it's his wish that he won't have to take action.  

"I don't want to make any arrests that day," Varrenti said. "Even though I don't endorse this event I hope that when it goes off, it's a beautiful sunny day, there are no troubles and no noise complaints. No issues whatsoever ­— that's what I want. I'm hoping for the best and preparing for the worst."

May said he will be meeting with the village board on April 27 to receive feedback from the board regarding the event.

-- One of the comments --

a very concerned john doe
Wed Apr 13 2011 02:56

"Palm Sunday is a Christian holiday and many people in the village are likely to be outdoors at the time of the concert."

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment by Chief Varrenti (who, by the way, respects the United States Constitution to the utmost degree - as does every single unbiased officer under his command). As I understand, the vulgar Goo-Goo-Doll concert is occurring on a CHRISTIAN holiday; this is simply unacceptable! Christians have priority when it comes to who has the right to spend time outside in Brockport. You Rock-and-Roll-Loving Anti-Christs need to find some other day to promote your devil music. However, Ramadan is only three and a half short months away in early August; and, as it turns out, all of us God-Loving, Ever-Evolving, University-Educated Brockport villagers don't have much going on during these summer months. Perhaps you can throw your little demon worshipping party then?
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