At its meeting of November 19, 2002,
the Huntington Town Board enacted a series of new and aggressive laws to work in
concert with the Operation HAILSTORM (Huntington Against Illegal Landlords)
legislation passed in July of this year. Enactment of the new laws culminate in
a comprehensive and unprecedented neighborhood preservation program to halt
existing illegal housing, while deterring future instances of the same.
"Our message in putting together this
program is clear," stated Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone. "Those who
disregard the law- and in doing so compromise the quality of life of their
neighbors and all who live in this Town - will pay a hefty price, up to and
including the actual forfeiture of the dwelling itself," the Supervisor
Councilwoman Marlene Budd, who has long
worked to address illegal housing issues threatening public safety and
neighborhood quality of life added, "for the first time in the Town's history,
the odds in the game of cat and mouse between the Town and its illegal landlords
will become stacked in favor of the Town. What makes our new program distinctly
unique is that it will allow us to adjudicate the majority of zoning code
violation cases in much less restrictive and less time consuming venues than
traditional District Court," Councilwoman Budd said.
For example, the use of the civil
jurisdiction of the courts is one such additional avenue that will be used to
remedy non-compliance with Town Code. "Using the civil jurisdiction, the Town
may seek a court-ordered injunction to force compliance in a given zoning
matter," Councilman Cuthbertson said.
Councilwoman Susan Berland added that
the Town Board is further proposing to allow for civil monetary remedies in
connection with illegal housing violations. "Our present Code does not permit
the Town to pursue civil relief for such violations. This new amendment will
serve as an additional mechanism to seek relief in the form of a monetary
reward," Councilwoman Berland said.
The ability to use Administrative
Search Warrants to gain access to and search suspected illegal dwellings was
also adopted. "This new mechanism allows the Town to more easily obtain a search
warrant to enforce housing codes," said Councilman Mark Capodanno. "Prior to
this amendment, search warrants could only be obtained under the more
restrictive Penal Code. The use of Administrative Search Warrants will provide
the Town another access option needed to promote compliance."
Additionally, the Town Board
enacted a Rental Registration Law. The Rental Registration provision requires
anyone wishing to rent their premises (with the exception of legal accessory
apartments or other exempt housing) to register the details of any such
arrangement, including an emergency contact telephone number for the
Finally, the Town Board expanded its
Nuisance Code to include any residence in violation of the Town Code and Uniform
Fire Prevention Building Code. In the spirit of the "Crack House Law," whereby
the Town can hold a public hearing to consider seizing a property that has been
the site of two drug arrests within one year, the same repercussions now apply
to repeat offenders of the Town's zoning code.
At its meeting of October
29th, The Huntington Town Board authorized the Town Attorney's Office
to pursue four separate civil actions throughout the Town involving illegal
housing arrangements. Additional civil actions will follow.
"All of the past, and most recent
initiatives under the Operation HAILSTORM program should be notice enough that
this Town Board will not tolerate those who knowingly, or unknowingly violate
the law, placing innocent people and our very Town's quality of life at risk,"
stated Supervisor Petrone.