Councilman Gene Cook proposed legislation to the Huntington Town Board Tuesday in what he says is 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.