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Huntington challenges horse farm's claim to agricultural tax break

A study to determine the unused and potential

A study to determine the unused and potential capacity of the Huntington sewer district is expected to begin this fall. Huntington Town Hall is pictured here. Photo Credit: Carl Corry

Attorneys for the Town of Huntington are challenging assertions that an Asharoken horse farm is an agricultural business, suggesting it is a hobby the property owner is trying to use to land a tax break.

The second day of arguments in a tax reimbursement lawsuit filed by the farm owner was heard Friday in State Supreme Court in Central Islip.

An attorney for the town said despite roughly 35 sporting events in the past five years that were supposed to help sell the farm's horses, sales have been slow.

"Their argument is that they're training these horses for sale, and yet they've only had three sales the whole time," said Harvey Besunder, a partner with the Islandia-based law firm Bracken Margolin Besunder, who is representing the town in the case. "It appears that this is just a very wealthy woman who has an expensive hobby and can afford to do it."

Sandpiper Farm owner Laurie Landeau trains about 20 fox-hunting horses on the 440-acre property.

Jon Santemma, an attorney representing Eatons Neck LLC, the entity that owns the farm, said Friday that the town's line of questioning was a distraction from the real issue. "It's a land use issue," he said. "Nothing else."

In 2012, Sandpiper Farm won a place in one of Suffolk County's agricultural districts. Huntington is challenging the farm's assertion that it is owed taxes back to 2010 for the difference between what it paid and what its owner believes she should have paid if the property had been assessed as agricultural land.

The difference could mean millions of dollars for the town at a time when it is trying to restore its budget reserves, which have been depleted in recent years.

Santemma said Sandpiper Farm has met the $10,000 minimum gross sales on a two-year basis, thus meeting state and local requirements for agriculture.

If the farm had been assessed and taxed as an agricultural property instead of residential, the taxes would have been significantly lower. In 2013-14, the farm's property taxes were $871,000. Besunder said they could be as low as $3,900 a year if assessed as agricultural land.

Sandpiper is seeking five years' worth of back taxes. The judge affirmed the farm's request to have his decision apply through the 2014-15 fiscal year.

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