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Town mulls cleanup of Kings Park homeowner's property

The house at 21 Heather Dr. in Kings

The house at 21 Heather Dr. in Kings Park is reported to be owned by Charles Ritchie, who neighbors say has been hoarding cars and garbage on his property for more then 20 years. (Jan. 25, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

Smithtown officials are debating whether to clean the property of a Kings Park man who they say hoards garbage, scrap metal and junked vehicles outside his home.

At its board meeting Tuesday, the town plans to discuss entering onto the property owned by Charles Ritchie, at 21 Heather Dr., to remove trash, yard waste and vehicles, the presence of which officials say violates town code on property maintenance.

"There are some obvious health and safety issues," said Joseph Nowotny, Smithtown Department of Public Safety investigations division supervisor. "Any time you have an accumulation of debris to this extent laying on the ground, rats burrow under the garbage. It becomes a habitat for the wild animals like raccoons."

Last week, Ritchie was seen rolling a tire across his front yard. He declined to comment. Debris spilled from his open garage onto the driveway -- including a broken lawn mower, bicycle and audio visual equipment. Two cars and a van, plastered with an unregistered vehicle notice, held garbage bags.

Town code requires that properties be properly maintained to prevent blight and are "free from fire and health hazards, garbage, rubbish, debris, waste, weeds and dangerous conditions so as not to adversely affect the community," said Town Attorney John Zollo.

If the board authorizes the cleanup, the town will assess the cost, prepare a judgment and file it against the property after it is cleaned, Zollo said.

The public safety department has issued five summonses to Ritchie, 60, since March 2011 on property maintenance and unregistered vehicles, Nowotny said.

Ritchie did not attend more than a dozen dates at Suffolk County 4th District Court to address the matter, said Nowotny, which has resulted in two warrants for his arrest.

"He's a repeat offender who has ignored court appearances and apparently is not taking this matter seriously," said Zollo, adding that the town does not get involved in enforcement of warrants.

Corlyn Nedwick, a next-door neighbor, said at a town board meeting in December that the neighborhood is frequented by rats and that she's embarrassed to invite people to her home.

"We've been told by real estate . . . [agents] there will be a slim chance of selling our homes with such an eyesore on our street," Nedwick told the board. "Please help us. Mr. Ritchie has held us hostage much too long."

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