Huntington Town May Ease Restrictions on Detached Garages

Town Councilman Gene Cook pushes for finished garages, tighter restrictions on accessory structures.

Huntington Town Councilman Gene Cook proposed legislation to the Town Board Tuesday in what he says in an attempt to streamline the town code and reduce stress to homeowners working with the building department.

Cook suggests in his proposed legislation that the town remove ambiguities and update the code to "reflect recent trends in the design of accessory structures."

Features that would allow habitation such as plumbing, heating, and fixed stairs are currently prohibited in accessory structures. Habitable space would be defined as space where one could live, sleep, eat, or cook.

The new language proposed by Cook tightens the ban to include "insulation, wall coverings on the inside of exterior walls, or design features such as a basement, second story or upper level."

Detached residential garages, defined as housing one or more cars with gas in the tank, would be exempt from the above requirements under the proposed legislation. Cook proposes that they be allowed to have a water supply and "space that is conditioned," although their use as habitable space would still be prohibited.

"At least four people had detached garages and the town made them pull sheet rock off the insulation and heat," said Cook. "None of the garages were being lived in."

Cook, a car enthusiast with a finished garage, added regarding the legislation, "I'm hoping that we can resolve it and not have the fear from the town board that everybody's going to live in a garage that's nicely finished."

Marie Rendely, a Huntington Station resident, spoke numerous times throughout the meeting. She regards the legislation with a cautious eye.

"My concern is that it's the town attorney and building department, who do want to make it easier, but are trying to restrict so people don't use an accesory structure as habitable space. And when they do that, they're taking away the basic needs and storage for people who use it legally," she said. 

Rendely also took issue with Cook's proposed tightened restrictions on garages according to residential area.

"When it comes down to the number of cars, they decide by single family and double family, not by the size of the house and how many people live there. If you have the square footage and the backyard and all the set backs you should be allowed to have a three-car garage," she said.

Cook's legislation includes additional definitions for terms in the zoning and building codes such as area, cellar, curb level, and established grade; and additional restrictions and requirements for things like fences and retaining walls. He worked with the Town Attorney, the building department, and the planning department on the legislation.

"The building department finally wants to change these so its easier for the residents to get an understanding of what they have to do," he said. "There were issues with garages, slopes and grades, crawl spaces; there was a lot of redundancy...People should be allowed to use their properties the way it fits."

Rendely said she knows just how frustrating it can be to get things done in the Town of Huntington. She was just awarded a building permit after 20 years of push and pull.

"There are a lot of laws on the books with the Town of Huntington that are just conflicting," she said. "They don't work, they create hardship, and they make people want to do it without coming in here because they're too afraid."

A public hearing on the legislation will be held on April 9 in Town Hall.

John T March 07, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Mr.Cooke, We hear you have this type of condition on your home, is this what you were elected to do, stop being a self serving politician. These types of structures are not fair to your neighbors, the school taxes and property values. We really thought you were different then the rest but we were wrong. Maybe with your money you could buy a mother/daughter home or a home that meets "Your" needs. When election times comes around you will not get my support. In fact we will make sure your constituent's will see you for who your are, now I know why smiling like that all the time.
John Gruber March 07, 2013 at 04:19 PM
how is a detached garage "not fair" to neighbors?
John T March 07, 2013 at 10:14 PM
People go to the town and agree to these restrictions, then the homeowner brings in what's needed to finish it as habtibal space. The neighbors then have to call the code enforcement to report a neighbor who is renting it for cash and adding kids to the school district. This town only responds to people who call up and complain, this causes many strained relationships between neighbors. If this town was a Fire Truck it would pass a burning building unless someone called up to report a fire. Villages would never allow what a town does, that's why those neighborhoods are always stable.
David B. March 08, 2013 at 02:57 PM
I am a vintage car owner that lives in Huntington and would love to heat and air condition my 'man cave/garage' to make minor maintenance more enjoyable. I have no intention of 'adding students to the school system' or being 'unfair' to my neighbors by renting my garage to a tenant. David B.
John T March 08, 2013 at 06:35 PM
But when you move someone moves in they will have this space available to family or friends to help pay their prperty taxes on their home. There is a thing called a Care Takers Quarters where they already do this here in Huntigton Bay area, they have landscapers, and all kinds of trucks there all the time to do routine maintenance on this home yet they have a caretaker. The owner lives tax free and increases the budget of every service in the town and the homeowner pays no increase in taxes and reduces the quality of life for the homes adjacent to this. You just can't trust people to do what your doing. I do however understand what you want.


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