Riverhead Town Tax Assessor and Republican Committee chairman Mason Haas has sued Riverhead Town over its recently passed ethics law, accusing Town Board members and Supervisor Sean Walter of targeting him as political retribution. READ
The chapter of town code that regulates Riverhead Town’s rental dwelling units has been in place since 1996. It states that “any commercial hotel/motel business operating exclusively and catering to transient clientele,” shall pay a “biannual” rental permit fee.
Riverhead town has “received assurances” in court that the owner of an allegedly overcrowded house on Hamilton Avenue will begin fixing fire and town code violations within 30 days, town officials said Wednesday.
Deputy town attorney Bill Duffy appeared in state Supreme Court Tuesday morning and said the attorney for Rickey Taylor — the landlord of the property — agreed to take steps to fix the “numerous” town code violations inside the house at 331 Hamilton Avenue.
Town officials say at least 18 men were living in the two-story single-family house, which was targeted in a code enforcement raid last week.
In the raid, authorities allegedly found some of the occupants had been living in an unfinished cellar that had been divided into makeshift living spaces. The men living in the basement had been sleeping on beds close to exposed wiring, insulation and heating and boiler equipment, authorities said.
There was also evidence that an unheated garage was being used for housing, town officials said.
Town officials said the search also revealed blocked egress, exposed wiring, “excessive” littering, a shortage of smoke detectors and evidence that living areas had been created without building permits or certificates of occupancy, according to the town.
The property was one of four targeted by the Town Board for legal action last March. Mr. Taylor had told town officials last year that he was going to bring the home into compliance, town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz said Wednesday.
But that never seems to have happened, he said.
“We had a sense he was going to do the right thing and come into compliance,” he said. “But then we got an indication from neighbors at 331 Hamilton that things weren’t going the way they should.”
Mr. Taylor couldn’t be reached for comment this week. However his lawyer, David Gilmartin, Jr., said on Thursday afternoon that “Mr. Taylor is cooperating fully with the town, and promises to ensure the properties will be consistent with the requirements of town code.”
In court Tuesday, Mr. Gilmartin assured the town that those living in unsafe areas had been moved out, Mr. Duffy said. Residents will continue to live in the home while the violations are addressed, he said.
“We didn’t want people being thrown out onto the streets,” Mr. Duffy said. “That’s the tightrope we’re having to walk.”
Mr. Duffy said Mr. Taylor must bring in a licensed electrician by Friday to being to fix the electrical violations in the property and immediately remove objects blocking the exit paths from the house. Mr. Taylor also must apply for building permits to fix the other code violations within 30 days.
Mr. Duffy said town will inspect the house periodically to make sure work is getting done. The court will also be watching to make sure Mr. Taylor keeps his promises, Mr. Duffy said.
“The judge is going to be on top of this,” he said, adding that the town will seek sanctions against Mr. Taylor should he fail to comply.
The town plans to pursue fines against Mr. Taylor for the alleged violations, Mr. Duffy said.
“These are the emergency steps,” he said. “Any stipulation to settle [the violations] will include fines.”
The Riverhead Town Board has approved a resolution to take legal action against a Baiting Hollow property that town officials allege is acting as an illegal dog shelter.
The board gave town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz the green light to begin a state Supreme Court civil action against the owners and tenants at 31 Goose Lane. Mr. Kozakiewicz said the building is being used to run an adoption business in violation of town code.
The shelter, called Precious Pups, has been adopting out small rescue dogs, Mr. Kozakiewicz said, though he couldn’t say how many dogs were believed to be inside the house at any given time.
“It was something brought to our attention,” he said. “One neighbor complained about the noise.”
In an interview Wednesday morning, a woman who identified herself as the house’s owner said she was fostering dogs for a shelter in Ronkonkoma, adding that the town never sent her a notice that she had violated the town code.
“Once in a while, maybe, I have one or two [shelter dogs] here,” said the woman, who did not give her name. “I just foster a couple of them. Is it against the law to foster a dog? I mean, some people foster children.”