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Jul 23, 2014 9:34 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Will Seek Injunction To Close Illegal Hampton Bays Apartment Complex

Jul 23, 2014 10:09 AM

The Southampton Town Board this week directed Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato’s office to seek an injunction against the owners of a Hampton Bays motel, barring the property from continuing to be used as year-round rental apartments, as it has been for nearly the past two decades.

Amid a chorus of complaints from Hampton Bays residents, with most demanding that the Town Board take more aggressive action against the numerous illegal housing complexes throughout the hamlet, the board unanimously approved the request for an injunction against the owners of the Tiana Pines Garden Apartments on West Montauk Highway—though the move might only be symbolic.

The owners of the converted 16-room motel, Domenico and Vincenza Iadevaia of Carle Place, are currently suing the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals over a 2013 ruling denying their request to convert the property from a motel to long-term rental housing. The motel, which is actually a row of small apartments, has been used as long-term residences for years, and has been the focus of community ire because of overcrowded living arrangements and an influx of children living at the motel who attend schools in Hampton Bays.

John Wagner, an attorney representing the Iadevaias, asked the Town Board on Tuesday night not to pursue the injunction and pointed out that it would simply become part of the existing lawsuit by the owners against the town, and would likely be stayed by the court pending the outcome of the lawsuit. He also noted that an injunction would simply cost his clients more in legal fees, and that they would “hold the town accountable” for those costs.

Snickers arose from the audience at that suggestion, as many speakers at Tuesday night’s meeting had implored the board to find ways to financially penalize the owners of illegal rental complexes more severely.

“Make these landlords go to Supreme Court, make them lay out real legal fees, close them down permanently,” said Ian Fitzgerald, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays, a community group that staunchly opposes the proliferation of illegal housing in the hamlet. “Send a message to these landlords that they cannot violate town code so flagrantly and get away with it.”

The owners of Tiana Pines applied last year to the town’s ZBA for a variance that would have allowed them to legally change from one non-conforming use, a motel, to another, multifamily residences. In an odd ruling, however, the ZBA denied the requested change because it found that the initial non-conforming use as a hotel had been abandoned—because of the many years of use as illegal long-term rentals—and therefore could not be converted to another non-conforming use.

The board’s ruling meant that the property is legally only able to be used as a single-family residence, for which it does not have a valid certificate of occupancy. But the ultimate resolution now lies in the hands of the court.

Many Hampton Bays residents also took the opportunity to remind the Town Board of other illegally converted motels, in particular, and the estimated dozens of rental houses that are also violating the town’s housing codes—many of them for years.

It has been nearly two years since members of the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays presented the town with a list of some 500 properties, just in the hamlet, that they believe were in violation of local housing codes and, on Tuesday night, many expressed frustration at the town’s response. Last month, Southampton Town’s newly restructured Code Enforcement Division issued 54 notices of violation against the owners of 14 rental properties in the North Road neighborhood of Hampton Bays, an investigation that was assisted by the list provided by the community group.

“We were informed just this week, some of the houses we gave them were corrected and [the cases] closed back in 2013,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “That means no new summonses have been issued since we turned in the list. They come in and pay the fine and go about their business.”

One former motel, known as Hidden Cove and located on West Tiana Road, had been the focus of the group’s most vociferous complaints and a catalyst for its formation when the Suffolk County Department of Social Services began using it several years ago to house homeless families, often in overcrowded conditions that violated town occupancy codes. After dozens of violations and a legal press by the citizens group, the county removed its homeless tenants from the property, but residents said the motel is once again being used as long-term housing.

“Hidden Cove is running again as illegal apartments—I feel like we’re reliving this too many times,” said Gail Liner, one of the founding members of the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays. “It’s the same codes, the same addresses. Why is it so difficult to follow the codes as they were written? There have been some improvements, but not enough.”

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As much as I support this - because it is an illegal use and the owners are trying to get away with it, I find it funny that *THIS* is what the Town spends their time and resources shutting down.

There are how many homes that are overcrowded? How many "motels" that are being used as rentals far beyond their occupancy? "raids" (as the Press calls them) happen every now and then, but it seems things go right back to how they were.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Jul 23, 14 3:07 PM
the same politicians were voted in last time.
By LongIslander (43), HAMPTON BAYS on Jul 24, 14 7:22 PM
Seriously??? Does the Hampton Bays CAC think they are the "Housing Police." I know for a fact about half of the members are in violation on their own homes.
By SHTownHB (75), Hampton Bays on Jul 24, 14 5:02 PM
Clean it up... it is happening all over this town
By bigblue84 (89), Hampton Bays on Jul 24, 14 7:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Do tell SHTownHB? Half of the CAC this is juicy. Can you back that up with specifics?
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 24, 14 8:58 PM
CODE IS CODE--ENFORCE IT
By Talbot77 (53), southampton on Jul 26, 14 9:16 AM