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Southampton officials weigh fate of unsafe homes

Southampton Town Hall is shown.

Southampton Town Hall is shown. Credit: Erin Geismar

Southampton's town board decided to take steps that could lead to the razing of one of four homes identified Tuesday as being unsafe and dangerous.

A home on Old Country Road in Eastport seriously damaged by fire eight years ago was an obvious hazard, authorities said. It has holes in the floor where children could drop 9 feet into a basement, and which the town could declare a public safety hazard.

"There's a possibility of further collapse," warned Chief Fire Marshal Cheryl Kraft.

One case solved itself. The owners of a house on West Tiana Road in Hampton Bays, previously cited by the town, did the needed cleanup work themselves.

But for the other two homes, the board quickly found itself falling into what Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst declared was "a gray area." The town's legal powers to order a cleanup or to board up windows and doors were too weak to deal with problems that have gone on for years.

The board decided the two houses were structurally sound but not enough of a hazard to raze. Their ownership may be unclear. They have gotten summonses in the past, and they are littered and filled with graffiti and have broken windows or other problems which let in rain.

"I've had over three years of it . . . It's a terrible blight on our neighborhood," said Alex Cohen, who lives near one of those houses in Water Mill.

In the past, the town has done cleanup work on the two houses in Hampton Bays and North Sea, and tacked the cost onto the tax bills.

One houses -- under construction but never completed -- has no certificate of occupancy, and may violate town zoning code.

But town officials have stopped short of condemning the property. "What happens if we just don't like the color of someone's house," said Councilman James Malone. "You have to limit the power of a town board."

Throne-Holst pointed out the town has succeeded in actions against the property owners in the past, but that it hadn't solved the problem.

Malone suspects homeowners may be letting houses go because they have lost value.

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