2014-04-11 / In the News

Ordinance debate continues unabated

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

It may be budget season, but residents of Scarborough are still concerned about how dogs might be managed on town beaches, this summer and beyond.

Residents have been frustrated with how the Town Council has dealt with changes to the animal control and piping plover ordinances for months and came out in droves at the Wednesday, April 2 Town Council meeting, to voice their continued concerns about the council changing the ordinances.

“I don’t believe the change in the ordinance is needed,” said Julie Hannan. “I think you should abide by the referendum vote. You have wasted a lot of money, your time, our time, changing an ordinance that simply needed to be enforced.”

Residents will have to wait a little bit longer to see how the animal control and piping plover protection issue will be handled.

The council decided to table to May 7 the creation of protected areas on town beaches, which would restrict access for dogs during the piping plover nesting and mating season, which runs April to August.

No dogs would be allowed on Western Beach or the protected area on Higgins Beach, which spans from Champion Street to the Spurwink Rive. On Pine Point Beach, dogs would be allowed on leash only in the protected area, which is from Hurd Park to the Scarborough River. Dogs would be permitted to be off-leash north of the boat ramp on Ferry Beach.

Off-leash privileges and beach access for dogs would change if the piping plover moved out of the protected area, a provision that many who came to speak at the meeting, including Liam Somers, felt was overly complicated.

“The new ordinance is convoluted at best, you must know that,” he said.

Ann Hammond, a resident of Piper Shores, agreed.

“I think you are making things so complicated, losing people’s respect and making a lot of work not only for yourselves, but certainly your community,” Hammond said. “I have lived in other places and I have never seen so much made out of something so little.”

Suzanne Foley-Ferguson said because the birds are apt to move, what the council is doing, whether intentional or not, is closing the beach off to off-leash dogs if a piping plover might have been seen on the beach.

“Using the wandering bird idea and closing off the beach is really another way of saying there is no off-leash time in the summer and that’s where we started way back last year,” she said.

“You need to have a clearly defined area that can’t be redefined at somebody’s whim,” Somers said.

To help provide some clarity in that regard, councilors Jessica Holbrook and Jean-Marie Caterina said they would like to see a further definition of what is meant by migration and movement of chicks.

Another issue, Holbrook said, is how will people know whether the beach is open for unleashed dogs, or not. She wondered if a flag system — similar to red tide flags — or a 1-800 number could do the trick.

“The question is valid. How does someone know?” she asked.

Although a decision on the creation of protected areas was delayed, the council initially passed a series of ordinance changes to the animal control and piping plover ordinances. A public hearing on the changes is scheduled for Wednesday, April 16.

The ordinance, as it is proposed right now, would ban dogs on the beach from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May 15 to Labor Day, but would permit them if on leash in the unprotected areas of the beach from 5 p.m. to dusk during the same period. From the day after Labor Day to May 14, dogs would be allowed on leash in the unprotected sections of beach from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Councilor James Benedict said the council is not approving, nor denying the ordinance changes by passing them at first reading.

“This is part of the process. It keeps things moving. Changes can be made, especially at the public hearing. We can make changes based on what is said.”

The council also approved the formation of a canine education and enforcement ad hoc committee to help develop educational materials and consistent signage, as well as examine the need for dog parks, a dog tag program and provide support for a beach monitoring program for town beaches. The group will be made up of five members and conclude its work Monday, Sept. 1.

Somers said he would like to see an open and transparent process in appointing committee members.

“Since the formation of (the ad hoc animal control advisory committee) was met with rounded criticism, I would urge you to be more open and transparent in the selection process,” he said.

Council Chairman Richard Sullivan said the committee will be filled through an application process and, like other town committees, be chosen by the Appointments Committee.

Margot Hodgkins, a member of the ad hoc committee that proposed the new canine education group, said educational efforts could go a long way.

“I truly feel that enforcement and education is the key in this,” she said. “There are still so many people who come to the beach in the summer who have no idea what a plover is.”

Katy Foley, who championed a citizens’ referendum in December that forced the council to revisit the issue, urged the council to listen to what people have said when they revisit the issue again on May 7.

“There is a wide continuum of opinions out there and we can’t satisfy everybody, but I can say, if you pass this current proposal, you surely will face another referendum,” Foley said.

Catherine Rogers, a resident of Gorham Road, said it would be a shame if it came to that.

“Do you really need another referendum to tell you the citizens are tired of fighting with those who should be working with them,” Rogers asked the council.

Return to top