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Complaints prompt Belle Terre officials to mull changes to housing code

Belle Terre officials have begun making plans to upgrade the village's building code to crack down on illegal house rentals.

Mayor Ted Lucki said the effort to draft tougher rules was prompted by residents' complaints about a home on Lodge Lane that neighbors say has been occupied by more than a dozen people.

Lucki said the village cannot evict tenants because its building code does not limit the number of people who rent a house. Village constables have been directed to enforce safety codes at the home, Lucki said.

"We have landlords that don't care," Lucki said. "The neighborhood is frustrated, and so am I."

The affluent North Shore village of 900 residents is the latest community in Brookhaven Town to grapple with an influx of rental homes, many of them occupied by college students.

The town and Port Jefferson Village have upgraded their codes in the past two years to deal with the problem.

Belle Terre's new rules may mirror town code, which limits rentals to four unrelated tenants, Lucki said, adding that specifics of the code revision are incomplete. "We haven't decided which approach we're taking," he said.

In interviews, several Lodge Lane residents said tenants of the rental home hosted a noisy Halloween party on Thursday night, the latest in a string of disturbances at the house.

Dr. Norman Pflaster, a physician, said he and his wife were awakened at 1:15 a.m. Friday by young people ringing his doorbell in search of the party. "They went to the wrong house," he said. "My wife had to scream, 'Get out of here.' "

Another neighbor, Jeff Brett, said as many as 14 people had lived in the house, but he said village officials appeared indifferent to neighbors' concerns. "There's lots of cars and traffic coming and going," Brett said, adding the home was "totally disrepaired . . . It's a brand-new house, but it's destroyed."

Attorney Raymond Negron of Mount Sinai said the house is owned by his client, Steve Graziano, either directly or through his company, North Shore Designs. He said Graziano is not legally responsible for his tenants' actions."Never in this country have we arrested one person for the behavior of another," he said.

Negron said Graziano pleaded guilty about two years ago to a maintenance violation at the house and received a conditional discharge, which expired after one year.

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