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Huntington files summonses against property acquired by town board member Gene Cook and partners

Huntington Town Councilman Gene Cook is shown in

Huntington Town Councilman Gene Cook is shown in this photo from Sept. 30, 2009. Photo Credit: Pablo Corradi

The Town of Huntington has filed two summonses, citing concerns about safety at an East Northport property owned by town board member Gene Cook and his partners.

Representatives for TGJ LLC, named for the first initials of Cook and his partners -- Huntington real estate agent Tim Cavanaugh and Commack attorney Josh Price -- have been called to appear in Suffolk County Court on June 10 to address questions about work on an external stairway at a house at 792 Larkfield Rd., which the partners purchased last fall.

"The next step is [for] the parties to get together and meet about what's needed to comply with the code and [to] get an inspector over there and just inspect the staircase," said Edward Guardaro Jr., the outside counsel the town hired in a resolution passed April 21 to independently review issues at the property, including code enforcement.

Guardaro, of the Westchester office of Kaufman Borgeest & Ryan, was brought in to avoid the conflict of interest that could have occurred if a town attorney were to investigate a town board member.

The summonses, filed April 30, alleged that the owners allowed work on the stairs without a permit or a certificate of occupancy, which defines how a property is used.

Properties such as 792 Larkfield that were built before the town's zoning code was established are allowed to be maintained as is -- even if they do not comply with current zoning. But that protection disappears when any major change is made to the structure or use.

The town has a decades-old file on the property that contains contradicting information about whether it is a single or multifamily home.

The latest legal action does not address that question specifically, instead focusing on the exterior of the house.

As a result, the summonses do not seek to give inspectors access to the house's interior, Guardaro said. That is despite the several attempts by town inspectors to enter the home and determine if significant changes have taken place that would nullify the grandfathered zoning protection, town documents say.It is unclear if the town will also pursue legal action that would get inspectors inside the home to determine its status as a single or multifamily dwelling. The partners have said the home has always been used as multifamily, even though it is zoned for single family.

When asked why he was not seeking to enter the home, Guardaro said he was focused on working with the homeowners to make sure the staircase was safe.

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