A public hearing over whether or not a Baiting Hollow man’s home addition is safe turned into a colorful hour-long give-and-take between the property owner and the Town Board.
Eugene Lafurno of Baiting Hollow has been building what town officials call a third and fourth story onto his Founders Path home for several years, and town officials say it is unsafe and was built without proper permits.
Under Chapter 54 of the town code, Mr. Lafurno must either make the structure safe or remove it, or else the town will do so and add the cost to his tax bill.
Mr. Lafurno brought a large suitcase filed with papers to the hearing and rolled out a copy of the town code, claiming the work he did on his house is permitted, and he should be allowed to continue the work on his house, which he called “The Epiphany.”
“There is no third and fourth story on that house,” he said. “That’s a cupola, the town gave me a permit to build a cupola. Cupolas are protected from town height restrictions.”
Mr. Lafurno says he hired a professional architect and engineer for the project but seemed to believe neither would come to a public hearing to represent him.
He also brought a copy of a town permit for the structure, but town officials say that what was built doesn’t conform to those plans.
The town has taken Mr. Lafurno to court over his refusal to take down the structure and Mr. Lafurno was even served time in jail over it in 2013. Over the summer, the town was granted approval by a State Supreme Court judge to knock the structure down.
But Supervisor Sean Walter also said what Mr. Lafurno has built isn’t “tremendously far off” from what he intends to build, and that he just needs to get an architect or structural engineer to work on it.
Mr. Lafurno said he hired a professional architect and engineer to work on the project, but he seemed to imply they would not be willing to come to a hearing in support of his project, and asked Mr. Walter if they could be subpoenaed.
“We’re not going to subpoena them,” Mr. Walter said, but added that he’s welcome to bring a professional to the hearing.
Christopher Santini, Mr. Lafurno’s next door neighbor, said Mr. Lafurno has been building “this abortion of a house” for 13 years.
“If any of you had to live next door to this, I’m sure you would have the same problem with it that I have,” Mr. Santini said, asking that Mr. LaFurno be made to take down the structure.
Jonathan Cohen, another neighbor, said by letter that the structures are unsafe, dangerous and illegal.
He asked the Town Board to have them taken down “before someone gets hurt or possibly killed.”
Mr. Walter said the hearing will have to be continued on March 3, since town engineer Ken Testa couldn’t attend Tuesday’s hearing.
Caption: Eugene Lafurno pictured at his Baiting Hollow home, which he has dubbed ‘The Epiphany.’ Riverhead Town was given approval from a court last summer to demolish the addition at the top of the house. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)