Hen Island cottage owners vow to clean up
APRIL 18, 2009

RYE – Hen Island cottage owners are defending the safety and upkeep of their summer retreat after the city slapped them with violations this week.

Ira Goldenberg, an attorney for Kuder Island Colony, the corporation of 34 shareholders, did not dispute the fire and building safety problems city inspectors found during an April 1 visit.

“We apologize these issues have come to this point, and we intend to resolve it promptly,” he told the City Council on Wednesday, adding that owners had already planned to address some of the problems when they return to the island in the next few weeks.

Violations included improper propane tank storage, cottage wall and foundation problems, and shrubs and debris next to buildings that could spread a fire. Rye also sent a letter to the county environmental health commissioner asking him to re-evaluate possible health violations there.

Hen Island homeowner Helen Cunningham said the recent city review was an unfair depiction of the 26-acre island, which sits near Milton Harbor and is accessible only by water.

“We are keeping it as best we can for a wetlands area, and what you saw is not what is generally there,” said Cunningham, a cottage owner for 27 years.

Kuder Colony board President Ben Minard said residents understand safety concerns in a place with no fire or police protection. “We do not want anything that endangers anyone,” he said from Syracuse, where he lives. “We understand our vulnerability.”

City officials examined the area after homeowner Ray Tartaglione, the plaintiff in a pending lawsuit against Kuder Colony, complained that the city wasn’t monitoring health and safety conditions there.

Even though a judge ruled against him last year, Tartaglione still claims that some property owners fail to properly dispose of trash and allow sewage to seep into Long Island Sound. County health inspectors and city officials surveyed the island in July 2007 and reported no problems.

Mayor Steve Otis said Wednesday that acting City Manager Frank Culross had discovered that the City Council had been misled by then-City Manager Paul Shew, who was removed by the City Council last month.”We had been advised that a fuller inspection had been done,” Otis said. “Mr. Culross brought it to our attention that that was not accurate and we were misinformed.”

Jordan Glass, Tartaglione’s attorney, pressed the council to take another look at possible health code violations, arguing that Rye has the authority to regulate waste disposal on the island.

Goldenberg fired back, pointing out that a judge has never sided with Tartaglione, who has been angry with Kuder Colony since he was ousted from the board several years ago. “As you can see, it is difficult to know his motivation,” Goldenberg said. “The reality is, whatever Kuder Island tries to do, he will be unhappy.”

Rye is still waiting for a response from the county environmental health commissioner.


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