A court battle between the Town of Huntington and an Asharoken horse farm over millions in property tax dollars is nearing an end.
Attorneys for each side rested arguments Tuesday in tax certiorari court at state Supreme Court in Central Islip. Eatons Neck LLC, the owner of land known as Sandpiper Farm, has sought a review of its assessment.
The judge's ruling will determine how much of the property, if any, is entitled to an agricultural assessment, and how far back in time it should be applied.StoryTown challenges farm's claim to tax breakStoryFarm battles town over millions in taxes
If the property is ruled agricultural, the owner in the future would pay an estimated $3,900 in annual taxes, down from roughly $870,000 in payments to local governments, including Huntington and the Northport-East Northport School district, which receives the largest portion.
"The reason for an agricultural assessment is to allow farms and open spaces to exist," said attorney Jon Santemma, of Uniondale-based Farrell Fritz. "That is written as the policy of the state."
Attorneys are to submit final documents to Judge John Bivona in the first week of June. He is expected to issue a decision within 90 days of receiving the documents.
The town argued that Eatons Neck is trying to take advantage of a tax provision designed to help small New York farms.
Attorney Harvey Besunder, of Islandia-based Bracken Margolin & Besunder LLP, who represents Huntington, said Laurie Landeau, who operates the farm, wants to use a hobby to get a massive tax break.
Santemma argued the entire 440-acre property is used for training the horses, which are for sale, and should be given the lower tax assessment.
Mark Twentyman of Kinderhook, an assessor hired by the town, challenged that assertion in his November testimony, saying only "around 130" acres -- or 30 percent -- of the farm might be eligible for the agricultural assessment.
Santemma countered that Twentyman didn't understand what it takes to train horses. "You have to enable that horse to be familiar with every terrain and topography that that horse will be faced with," he said.
Santemma pointed to provisions in New York's agricultural tax law that say a farm the size of Sandpiper must produce only $10,000 in gross revenue in the prior two years, a requirement he said the farm has met since 2010.
Besunder has argued that Sandpiper Farm has failed to meet the two-year gross sales requirement.