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Riverhead Town takes Aquebogue homeowner to court over building permit violations

Riverhead Town has gone to court against an Aquebogue property owner for alleged violations of the town rental code and for allegedly building without permits. 

The lawsuit, filed in October 2020, names as defendant Canal House LLC, doing business as “Victorville by the Sea,” and its owner, Victor Ozeri.

The “Victorville by the Sea” property is at 228 Overlook Drive in Aquebogue, just west of Meetinghouse Creek. 

Mr. Ozeri bought the property in 2006 and expanded to create a 6,000-square-foot compound by 2011. He is the founder of a handbag design and manufacturing company called Interasian Resources.

The town maintains that the property was expanded without permits and is being rented without a rental permit from the town. 

“Victorville by the Sea” has advertised rooms on Airbnb and Instagram, where they say the property can be rented as both a hotel and/or a bed and breakfast, between May 15 and Nov. 15.

“Victorville by the Sea. A unique and whimsical waterfront mansion on the North Fork. Sleeps 42-46 people,” the Instagram ad reads. “Victorville consists of a main house with five themed bedrooms and four bathrooms, as well as seven separate and unique cottages.”

Victorville’s attorney is state Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), whose district represents the East End and parts of Brookhaven Town in the New York State legislature.

“We’ve actually sat down with the town and we plan on having them walk through the building with us so that we can remedy any non-compliance concerns, if there are any, as soon as possible,” Mr. Palumbo said.

Mr. Ozeri is scheduled for a deposition in the case on or before April 1, 2022, according to a recent court filing.

“It’s a big piece of property and there are all kinds of allegations,” Mr. Palumbo said. “We’re in litigation now, so I really can’t comment much further. But if there are any violations, we certainly are looking to remedy them immediately, with the town’s assistance.”

The town, in its lawsuit, says the premises is listed for rent on weeknights for $4,900 per night with no minimum number of nights that must be rented and $5,900 per night from Friday to Sunday with a two-night minimum reservation.

The rooms being rented have names like “The Love Shack,” ”The Penthouse,” “The Church of Baseball, “The ICU (Intensive Cuddling Unit)” and the “1969 Room,” among others. 

The town, in legal papers filed by deputy town attorney Erik Howard, says the property is zoned for Residence B-40, a use that permits only single-family dwellings.

Mr. Howard, in a May 19 letter to Mr. Palumbo, expressed concern that Mr. Ozeri had continued to disregard the town’s rental law even after the parties had just met a week and a half earlier. Mr. Howard wrote that they thought the meeting was “encouraging in so far that your client was willing to diligently work with the Town to address his various Building Code issues.”

The town, however, received additional complaints from neighbors on the weekends of May 7-9 and May 14-16 that Mr. Ozeri “has continued illegal transient rental of the premises.”

In the letter, Mr. Howard requested the Airbnb page and other online advertisements of the property be taken down “on an immediate basis.”

“To be clear, Mr. Ozeri must immediately discontinue illegal transient rental of the premises,” the deputy town attorney wrote.

The town says the property is improved with a single family dwelling, as well as a detached garage, an in-ground swimming pool, bulkheads and a dock, a cottage, pool house, fixed Airstream trailer and a boat house.

The one-story masonry residential dwelling has eight rooms, including four bedrooms, two bathrooms and one kitchen with a one-story attached garage and an in-ground pool.

Except for the single family dwelling, the town maintains that all of the other uses on the property were built without proper building permits and approvals. 

The town is seeking an injunction prohibiting Canal House from renting the property without a rental permit. It is also seeking $2,800 in unpaid rental inspection fees; $1,900 in unpaid “short duration” rental permit fees; and $100,000 in civil penalties the town says it is owed.

Riverhead Town police began a confidential investigation into the property in June, according to court filings. A Riverhead sergeant assigned to the detective division contacted Mr. Ozeri through an alias on June 9 and expressed interest in renting a room directly through him, rather than on a Airbnb. The sergeant visited the site on June 14 and used a video recording device to document the premises. The sergeant agreed to pay $450 cash for a single night for the “Love Shack” after completing a tour.