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Housing violation case against Huntington board member in court

Huntington Town Board member Gene Cook during a

Huntington Town Board member Gene Cook during a board meeting on April 21, 2015. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

Huntington town board member Gene Cook was in court Friday to answer summonses issued by the town for an alleged code violation at a rental property he owns with partners in East Northport.

In April 2015 the town issued summonses to TGJ LLC, a company owned by Cook, Huntington real estate agent Tim Cavanaugh and Commack attorney Josh Price, alleging alterations were done to an external stairway without a permit or certificate of occupancy at the property at 792 Larkfield Rd.

Cook and his partners maintain any changes to the house are legal and cosmetic and that the stairs were changed before they purchased the property in fall 2014, said Larry Kelly, the Bayport-based attorney representing TGJ.

Cavanaugh was also in court Friday; neither he nor Cook testified. On Monday, Price said he had sold his interest in TGJ LLC months ago.

In an interview, Cook said he believed town officials could have handled the case much better.

“This is a case of government out of control, which manipulates the rules to their benefit,” he said.

Kelly said, “Everything was legal as a pre-existing, non-conforming [structure], and you can do repairs that do not rise to the level of requiring a building permit,” Kelly said. “If you don’t destroy a load-bearing wall, if you don’t do certain things, you can repair your house without a building permit.”

Homes that were built before the town had zoning laws are grandfathered in “as is” even if they don’t comply with current zoning laws. Records show that the house at 792 Larkfield Rd. was built before zoning codes were created in 1934.

Town building inspector Lisamarie Walter — the town’s chief witness — was the only person to take the stand Friday. She was mostly asked about procedural practices within the building department regarding code enforcement and violations including confirmations of mailings.

She was also asked about her recollection of discussions with other people in town hall about the property once she found out Cook was an owner.

The outside counsel representing the town in the matter, Westchester-based Edward Guardaro Jr., declined to comment Friday.

The case is before Judge James P. Flanagan in Sixth District Court in Patchogue. The next court date is Dec. 19 at 9:30 a.m.

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