Controversial Orient landlord seeks to turn short-term rental into B&B

The owner of a controversial short-term rental property in Orient is now looking to convert his Soundfront home into a bed-and-breakfast.

Petros Kougentakis, who is involved in ongoing litigation with Southold Town for failure to comply with its minimum-night stay, recently appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals seeking a special exception to operate a four-bedroom B&B at his Windward Road home.

If approved, Mr. Kougentakis’ property would be the second such business permitted on the six-home private road.

Orient Point Bed & Breakfast, another former short-term rental property on the street, also sought a special exception after the town passed its short-term rental law in 2015.

Approval to operate as a bed-and-breakfast allows owners to avoid the required 14-night minimum stay for rentals of privately owned homes, but the property owner must reside in the home.

Attorney Patricia Moore said Mr. Kougentakis’ driver’s license and eligibility to vote within the town reflects his residency here. Mr. Kougentakis told ZBA members that the Orient property is now his full-time home and that he intends to operate the B&B himself and is now renting out his former primary residence in Brooklyn.

“I am there weekdays mostly,” Mr. Kougentakis said of the Orient house.

The house on Windward Road pictured in late 2015. (File photo credit: Chris Lisinski)

Mr. Kougentakis said Orient has been his primary residence for five years, but Ms. Moore said he spent time in Brooklyn between 2012 and 2014 because his wife was receiving cancer treatment at New York University Hospital in Manhattan. After her death in 2014, he had no obligations in the city with respect to medical treatment and returned to Orient full-time, she said.

But Mr. Kougentakis has had previous run-ins with the town and was among the first landlords ticketed under the short-term rental law. An assistant town attorney previously told The Suffolk Times that on Nov. 16, 2015, there was a pre-Thanksgiving weekend party at the property with 25 guests and 15 cars parked out front.

Neighbor Sharon Keuhn, who spends weekends at her home on Windward Road, said she does not believe Mr. Kougentakis lives in Orient full-time. Ms. Moore said her client understands the home must be his principal residence.

Ms. Keuhn called the spot a “notorious party house.”

“This would now be a second B&B on a private road with six homes,” she said. “We’ve come to the end of the earth to have some peace and quiet and it doesn’t seem like that’s what it’s going to be. We believe it’s extremely inappropriate not [only] to have just one, but two B&Bs on a private road.”

When the first B&B on the block went before the ZBA last May, four Windward Road homeowners submitted letters expressing concern about the impact it could have on the neighborhood.

ZBA chairperson Leslie Kanes Weisman said the board considers potential effect a requested B&B might have on the surrounding community when granting or denying a special permit. It’s generally been the board’s experience in granting B&Bs requests that guests are frequently in and out of the homes, looking to experience the area, she said.

Ms. Moore said the fact that another B&B exists on the street shows the presumption that it’s permitted there “with certain reasonable conditions.”

The house’s patio is private and away from open view, she said. The house is so isolated and separated from neighbors, she said, that they did not realize Mr. Kougentakis was living there. She also said Mr. Kougentakis would be willing to limit the B&B to three bedrooms, if necessary.

“My client at this point is willing to show the community that this B&B will not cause the sky to fall, that it will not cause any disruption to the community and therefore he’s certainly comfortable with a three-bedroom B&B,” Ms. Moore said. She added that it would not be a “very intensive use,” noting that demand for use in Orient is “not as prolific as in other areas of Southold.”

Mr. Kougentakis said his home would continue to be listed as a rental on until Tuesday, May 9, when his contract with that site was set to expire, and noted that he advertises a 14-night minimum stay. A search also found his house listed for $500 per night on AirBnb, with acknowledgment of the town’s requirement. The house has previously been listed for more than $1,000 per night.

Mr. Kougentakis told the ZBA he is at the home when he has guests.

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Top photo: Petros Kougentakis addresses the Southold Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals last Thursday. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)