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Dog-ordinance revisions tabled to Sept. 9

Following a public hearing, the Town Council on Aug. 12, 2019 tabled a decision on proposed dog-ordinance revisions until Sept. 9, when the council plans to vote separately on two different aspects of the proposal:

  1. A new, category system of managing dogs on municipal property: Category 1 – No dogs; Category 2 – On-leash only; or Category 3– On-leash or under voice control.
  2. A table listing which categories are designated to which properties.

Dogs on town athletic fields have generated the most concern since officials started working to modernize town dog regulations more than a year ago [news article]. The work was prompted by a January 2018 decision to move and enlarge an off-leash area of Fort Williams Park away from the multipurpose fields, and to prohibit unleased dogs on the fields during playing seasons.

The proposal presented on Aug. 12 would ban dogs from town playing fields all together, a concept supported at the hearing by Bridlepath Way resident Roger Rioux, who reiterated his position that dogs do not belong on athletic fields, for the health of the players and for the health of the fields. He also suggested the town, like other communities, establish fenced areas where dogs may run off-leash with no expectation of voice control.

However another speaker, Fowler Road resident Roger Caouette, said he regards his dogs as family members and lamented the growing number of restrictions placed on dogs in recent years. "When restrictions come in about dogs it's about our family. It's about me," he said. "We thought we were in a quieter part of town where we could go to Gull Crest and around there and that's restricted some now, and now its going to be restricted even more. And, ... I'm beginning to not feel welcome here," Caouette said.

More public comment

Participation in the ordinance revision process has been high, with opinions expressed passionately on all sides at both the committee and the council level, said Councilor Valerie Randall, a member of the ordinance subcommittee.

Designating town athletic fields as Category 1, "No Dogs Allowed" was intended to facilitate discussion last month, [news article] but Councilor Jeremy Gabrielson suggested the council take separate votes to further clarify public input before they make their decision Sept. 9. "In my reading of the comments that we've received I haven't seen any specific opposition to the basic structure of the ordinance, and so I would like to have that discussion and vote separately from a specific vote about which categories should be assigned to which location," he said. The table of category assignments included in the draft was designed to be updated periodically anyway, apart from the ordinance, Gabrielson said.

Council Chair Jamie Garvin supported the idea of separate votes, saying it was consistent with the council's May decision to adopt a separate management plan for Cliff House Beach. [news article]

Public comment will be accepted by email or other means before the Sept. 9 meeting, and during the meeting as part of the 15 minutes regularly allotted per agenda item, unless the council votes to extend the time. "Having had a public hearing (Aug. 12), I think the council generally is of the opinion to keep as close to the preassigned public comment time as possible," said Chairman Garvin. He added that email comment is given as much weight as in-person testimony.

Councilors are expected to submit suggested formatting changes to be incorporated into the final draft for consideration on Sept. 9.

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