A downtown apartment building co-owned by Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio operated for more than a year without town rental permits, the News-Review has learned.
Summerwind Square, the 52-unit affordable rental project on Peconic Avenue, received the rental permits Jan. 7, more than 14 months after its first tenants moved in, the town attorney’s office confirmed last week.
Ms. Giglio said the ownership group which includes partners Ray Dickhoff, Martin Sendlewski and Wayne Steck had been told by the deputy town supervisor and deputy town attorney that rental permits were not required since the town waived building fees on the project.
“The supervisor’s office was telling us time and time again that we didn’t need the rental permits,” Ms. Giglio said.
That’s a claim Supervisor Sean Walter and deputy supervisor Jill Lewis both deny.
Deputy town attorney Bill Duffy also denies ever stating that rental permits were not required, but he acknowledges there was confusion over whether the building fee exemption covered rental permit fees. The request to waive building fees came from Suffolk County, which provided funding to ensure the units remained affordable under county guidelines.
When the issue came up in late October, Mr. Duffy and Ms. Lewis said they told Mr. Dickhoff not to pursue the permits while the town attorney’s office researched the matter. Mr. Duffy said he notified the Summerwind partners in late December that they did in fact owe the permit fees.
Town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said the town has not issued a summons to Summerwind Square for not previously obtaining the permits.
The rental code allows for fines of $250 to $1,000 and up to 15 days in jail for a first violation, but officials said the town is unlikely to pursue any penalties.
“Generally, we try to get compliance,” Mr. Kozakiewicz said. “We try to get people to come in and file their permits before we fine them.”
Ms. Giglio, who works as a permit expediter on building applications in other towns and was previously criticized for lacking permits on an expansion of her own home, shared a series of emails with the News-Review that show she urged her business partners to apply for the rental permits. She said she sent the initial email after reviewing the town code and questioning whether the building needed permits. Mr. Dickhoff responded that he confirmed the building was “[not in] violation.”
She said the rental permit issue is only coming up now so that Mr. Walter, a fellow Republican she has disagreed with in the past, can “use it against her.”
Mr. Walter said he wasn’t even aware of the rental permit issue.
“I just assumed they had permits,” the supervisor said. “The councilwoman is fond of putting words in my mouth. In the whole scheme of life, there’s a whole lot of other things that are much more egregious than this. Mr. Dickhoff did the right thing by applying for the permits and getting them.”
The town’s rental permit requirement was adopted in 1996 to ensure all rentals — from single-family homes to large apartment complexes — comply with building and safety codes. Permits for a 52-unit rental project cost $2,900 and need to be renewed every two years, according to the town code.