Officials recommend tearing down incomplete condo

The incomplete condo building at the Knolls of Baiting Hollow has been deemed structurally unsound by multiple engineers.

A partially completed condo building at the Knolls of Baiting Hollow is now structurally unsound due to exposure to the elements and should be torn down.
That was the recommendation of the Riverhead fire marshal and  engineer, as well as an engineer hired by Knolls residents who have been complaining about the structure for some time.
The Town Board held a public hearing Wednesday on whether the building is unsafe, in accordance with Chapter 54 of the town code, which would enable the town to demolish an unsafe structure. The hearing room was packed with residents of the Knolls, who have been complaining about the structures for more than a year.
The condo complex is one of three that were begun and never finished at the Knolls. Another one is little more than a foundation.
“In my opinion, the structural integrity of the building is compromised,” said chief fire marshal Scott Davonski. With the building being open to the elements, wind can get in an uplift sheathing, causing it to blow away, and the exposure to the elements from having the building sitting open for about two years likely weakened the structural integrity of the building, Mr. Davonski said.
“The only cause of action I would recommend is demolition of the building,” Mr. Davonski said.
Riverhead Town enginner Ken Testa, and Bill Lifford, an engineer hired by Knolls residents, reached similar conclusions.
“I believe it should be demolished down to the foundation,” Mr. Testa said.
Knolls resident David DeCesare said that if the wooden deck on the structure caught fire, it would pose a danger to neighboring homes.
“You have taken an important step to protect the health, safety and welfare of the many people that live here,” Mr. DeCesare told the Town Board.
Residents say work on the buildings stopped about two years ago and they have been slowly deteriorating.
The developer of the unfinished buildings, The Knolls of Baiting Hollow LLC, bought the property in 2008. The group began excavating to install drainage rings that year on land the adjacent property owner, Baiting Hollow Properties LLC, claimed it did not own, according to court papers.
Baiting Hollow Properties, headed by Barry Beil, owns the adjacent Fox Hill golf course.
The Knolls of Baiting Hollow is run by Eamon Equities, a Holtsville-based building company headed by Jerrold Gorelick, which claims in court papers that an easement and right-of-way agreement allows them to access and improve that land. Mr. Beil’s company, in turn, denies that such an easement exists.
Mr. Gorelick was present at Wednesday’s hearing, but declined an invitation to speak. Mr. Davonski said that Mr. Gorelick had stated in a July 7 letter that his long-range plans include removing the structure and rebuilding it, but that to date, no demolition permit application has been sought for that purpose.
The Town Board held the public hearing open for written comments until Sept. 17.
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