Assemb. Edward Hennessey has been granted a zoning change that he says will help him pay about $10,000 in back taxes on his Shirley law office.
The Brookhaven Town Board on Tuesday voted 6-0, with one abstention, to rezone the two-story house co-owned by Hennessey (D-Brookhaven) from residential to business. Hennessey has said the zoning change was needed to secure a bank loan that would enable him and a partner to pay their tax debts.
The zoning change was supported by the board's four Republicans as well as two Democrats. Councilwoman Jane Bonner, a registered Conservative, abstained from the vote, but did not explain her reasons for doing so.
Hennessey said the building, a former model home on William Floyd Parkway, already was in arrears when he and partner Ron Lupski purchased it in 2010. The building had been zoned as a residence but had a variance to allow office uses, Hennessey said, adding that no bank would grant a loan until the zoning was changed.
"I took it over with the existing land use problem. I took it over and fixed it and corrected the land use problems," Hennessey said in an interview on Wednesday. "I'm proud that I turned around a distressed property in my hometown."
Brookhaven Republican chairman Jesse Garcia said Thursday that Hennessey's rationale for seeking the zoning change was "political double-talk." He said Hennessey's failure to pay back taxes would hurt local taxpayers.
"As an elected official, he should know better," Garcia said. "He should be ashamed."
Garcia said he had no input into the Republican board members' votes.
Hennessey said he was not sure when he would pay his tax bills. "We have a little more work to do with the planning department," he said. "The taxes will be paid up to date, with penalties and interest."
Hennessey said the building has two other tenants -- a taxi dispatcher and a vacuum sales business. The 4.95-acre site operates under the name Smith Point Business Center.
Before the town board vote, Shirley resident William Toranzo told the board that Hennessey should not be granted the zone change until he paid his tax bills. "How is this OK?" Toranzo said. "I don't believe this is any way for a public official to behave."
Hennessey defeated Republican incumbent Dean Murray in 2012. Murray has said he plans to run against Hennessey this year.