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Smithtown OKs razing of 2 vacant Kings Park homes

Smithtown Town is moving to raze two vacant

Smithtown Town is moving to raze two vacant houses at 77 and 81 W. Main St. in Kings Park. The demolition has been approved, but the town board may have to reconsider the resolution because it misidentifies the owner of the adjoining properties. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz, 2012

Smithtown officials have approved plans to tear down a pair of unoccupied Kings Park homes deemed unsafe by town building inspectors.

But Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said Monday that the Town Board may have to reconsider a resolution authorizing the demolition because it misidentifies the owner of the adjoining properties.

Two town councilmen -- including Vecchio's prospective primary opponent, Robert Creighton -- last week opposed the measure, saying the wrong owner is named in the resolution. Vecchio said the board might amend the resolution and take a second vote at its meeting this afternoon at Town Hall.

"I will ask that question," he said in an interview at his office. "We would have to change that if they want to."

The homes, known to local residents as the "Hightower houses" after the contractor who built them, have been the focus of complaints from neighbors who say they are an eyesore and safety threat. The houses, which have been vacant about a decade, were never completed or occupied, and town building officials say they are unsafe.

The homes' former owner, Frederic A. Powell, who is serving a 4-year federal prison sentence for unrelated fraud and conspiracy, is due for release in 2015. In December the houses were awarded by a Suffolk referee to Carle Place attorney Jeffrey K. Brown, who had sued Powell for alleged fraud.

Brown said Monday that he was "shocked" that the town may raze the homes. He said he spent $40,000 on repairs, taxes and legal fees since taking possession of the properties. "I've done everything they've asked me," said Brown, a constitutional law attorney. "This makes zero sense."

The Town Board voted 3-2 on Thursday to remove the houses and remediate the properties. Creighton and Councilman Edward Wehrheim voted against the resolution because it names Powell as the owner. "The resolution is incorrect," Wehrheim said. Creighton said he did not see the resolution until the meeting. "That was the first time I heard of it, so I voted no," he said.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy, who introduced the resolution, said the ownership issue is irrelevant. "It's still the same property. It's still the same houses," he said. "It doesn't matter who owns it."

Town Attorney John Zollo said the resolution probably is not "enforceable" because it names Powell.

Brown said he has a contract to sell the parcels to an unidentified developer.

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