Suffolk IDA delays vote on Culinary School tax break request

The Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency did not make a ruling on the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts building’s request for a 10-year property tax abatement at its meeting last Thursday.

Instead, it postponed the decision until its next meeting Dec. 14 in Hauppauge, according to Suffolk IDA associate director John McNally.

The IDA had held a public hearing on the proposed abatement last Wednesday at the culinary school in downtown Riverhead. Only IDA executive director Anthony Catapano and a stenographer attended that hearing on behalf of the IDA, and the full IDA was given the transcript and attended the Thursday meeting at the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz and assessor Laverne Tennenberg spoke against the abatement at the Riverhead meeting, as did Riverhead assistant school superintendent Sam Schneider and Michael Raniere, an attorney for the district.

Also speaking against the abatement was Robert Trotta, a Republican Suffolk County legislator from Fort Salonga.

Mr. Kozakiewicz and Ms. Tennenberg spoke at the Hauppauge meeting as well.

Ben Zwirn, the director of community affairs for the college, spoke in favor of the abatement at both meetings.

The town and school district maintain that Culinary Arts Riverhead, LLC, headed by builder Ron Parr, still owes them more than $328,805 in payment in lieu of taxes from a prior 10-year tax abatement that expires at the end of this year. Mr. Parr leases the building to the county.

That tax abatement requires Culinary Arts Riverhead to pay special district taxes like sewer and water district taxes. The proposed 10-year enhancement would not require the college to pay any property taxes.

Mr. Zwirn said if the college owned the building, and not Mr. Parr, it would be tax exempt. But he said the county is not in a position to buy the building.

Town and school officials had brought a lawsuit against Mr. Parr and both agreed to settle that lawsuit for an amount that Mr. Kozakiewicz acknowledged is less than what is owed.

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