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Town threatens to raze structures

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 and the owner of two vacant Kings Park houses resumed their war of words Thursday over the town's plans to raze the structures.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy accused the homes' owner, Jeffrey Brown, of refusing to comply with the town's orders to repair the adjacent buildings, which town building officials have deemed unsafe. The town board last month authorized demolition of the incomplete homes because they did not comply with town safety codes.

Neighbors have complained that the so-called Hightower houses, named after the contractor who built them, are eyesores and safety hazards.

McCarthy said Brown told town officials he would only repair the homes if the town dropped the demolition order, an allegation Brown denies.

"I've got a problem with Mr. Brown dictating to us that he'll fix the problem if we rescind the resolution," McCarthy said at a town board work session Thursday. "I don't think we should be following orders from someone whose property has given many residents a lot of headaches."

Brown, a Carle Place attorney who became the houses' owner in December, said he did not refuse to repair the buildings, which need new windows and other amenities. In an interview Thursday, he said the demolition resolution names the wrong person as the homes' owner. "I told them I want them to rescind the resolution because it's not accurate," Brown said.

The Feb. 28 resolution named former owner Frederic A. Powell of East Meadow, who is serving a 4-year federal prison sentence for unrelated fraud and conspiracy. He is due for release in 2015.

Councilmen Edward Wehrheim and Robert Creigton opposed the resolution, which passed 3-2, because the wrong owner was named.

The town board voted unanimously Thursday night to rescind the demolition order because of the error. It was unclear when the board would vote on a new resolution naming Brown as the owner.

Town attorney John Zollo said Thursday that Brown agreed to complete repairs, pay permit fees and submit an inspection report by April 4. The demolition order could be dropped if Brown follows through on the agreement, Zollo said.

"It's a gesture of good faith on both parties' parts," Zollo said in an interview. "We want to keep his feet to the fire."

Wehrheim said Brown should be given up to a month to complete repairs. "However, we should be prepared to take the houses down," he said. "It's not fair to the residents."

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