Councilwoman Jodi Giglio is calling for the town board to appeal the Suffolk IDA decision on the culinary school tax abatement. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, angered by the outcome of the application by Culinary Arts Riverhead for another 10-year property tax abatement, is calling on the town board to appeal the IDA’s decision because the application “didn’t meet the criteria for benefits.”

She is also calling for state legislation barring a county industrial development agency from acting in a town that has a local industrial development agency.

“It’s just ridiculous that a county IDA can come into a town and grant tax exemptions when there’s a local agency in place,” Giglio said.

The councilwoman was furious when she heard that the Suffolk County IDA yesterday had approved a 10-year, 75-percent tax abatement for the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts facility on East Main Street. A previous 10-year abatement granted by the county IDA expired last year. The owner of the property, a company owned by developer Ron Parr, who built the facility and leased it the the college for 20 years, applied for a new abatement from the county IDA, seeking a 100-percent abatement for 10 years.

The lease requires the college to pay all property taxes and assessments.

This morning, Giglio insisted that the town had agreed to the 75-percent abatement as part of a settlement yesterday at the Suffolk IDA meeting in Hauppauge.

“The town attorney was told to go settle it with the reduction if they stay open on weekends and summer,” Giglio said in a text message. She said the town board discussed the matter with town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz in an executive session yesterday morning before the town board’s regular work session. Giglio said she was the only one who objected.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and Councilman Jim Wooten both said the town attorney was given no such instruction.

“There was no consensus at all. We did not agree to any settlement,” Wooten said.

Giglio disputed his account. “There was a consensus. Laura went around the room. It was like, OK if that’s what the county is willing to pay, see if they’ll stay open on weekends.”

The town and the college had been negotiating, hoping to find a mutually acceptable middle ground, but the two sides could not close the gap between their positions, according to both the town attorney and a representative of the college, intergovernmental relations coordinator Ben Zwirn.

“No deal was made,” Kozakiewicz said this morning.

“I’d like to see the minutes from yesterday where Bob said we continue to object to any reduction to the county and would like them to pay the full taxes,” Giglio said.

She said she believes the supervisor capitulated to the county’s demands. “There’s definitely constant communication between the supervisor’s office and the county,” she said.

Jens-Smith said that’s a preposterous — and offensive — allegation.

“It’s absolutely unfounded. I’m working for the Town of Riverhead,” she said. Her job requires her to speak with other government officials, at every level of government all the time, she said.

“It would be nice if she spend more energy on doing her job and less on creating drama.”

Jens-Smith said the IDA had a public hearing and two additional meetings where the college’s culinary facility was on their agenda. “Jodi hasn’t shown up to any of them,” the supervisor said.

Wooten, a veteran Republican councilman, said while he does not always agree with the supervisor, a Democrat, he believes she acts in good faith and has the town’s best interests at heart.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into Jodi lately,” he said of his fellow Republican board member. “She’s been very argumentative.”

Giglio says she will ask the town board to take the Suffolk IDA to court to set aside the IDA resolution.

Jens-Smith said she’s willing to discuss the idea with the rest of the board and the town attorney.

Giglio said she has a meeting scheduled next week with State Senator Ken LaValle and plans to ask him to sponsor a bill that would prevent a county IDA from handling applications for benefits within a town that has a local industrial development agency.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.