2017-10-27 / Front Page

Council changes course

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

It was a night of reconsiderations for the town council Oct. 18, as councilors retracted two recent decisions: a requirement to force horse owners to outfit their horses with a feces containment device when they ride on Pine Point Beach and the denial of a zoning change on a 3.79- acre piece of property at 100 Enterprise Drive that has frontage, but not access on Route 1.

The council made the change on Sept. 6 for this season of horse riding on the beach, which runs October through March, but decided last week to make the change effective beginning on Oct. 1, 2018.

The reversal of the decision on horses on the beach comes after hearing from a number of horse owners who were concerned about the practicality of using a containment device – commonly referred to as a Bun Bag – on their animals. They told councilors that it would take time to obtain a device – since they are not sold locally – and train their horses to be comfortable with it.

Councilor Bill Donovan said he wanted to give horse owners time to purchase and get their horses acclimated to the devices before making it a mandated part of the horse-riding permit, which is issued jointly with the town of Old Orchard Beach.

Windham resident Donna Chapman said the devices can “prove to be dangerous if you get a jumpy or spooked horse” that isn’t used to one. If it comes to be too much of an issue, she said horse riders “will just go elsewhere.” Jane Grover, of Sargent Road, said the new requirements will “make it very difficult for people to ride on the beach.”

Cindy Flaherty, who runs Flaherty Family Farm Equestrian Center, recently purchased a device online and found, after the fact, that it could not be used with 21 of the 22 saddles she owns because it requires special saddle equipment. Purchasing the required saddle, she said, would be cost prohibitive.

“For my business, it would be impossible. We would no longer be able to bring kids to the beach,” she said.

Stephanie Keene, who owns Hearts and Horse Therapeutic Riding Center in Buxton – a business that started in Scarborough in 1995 – said the vast majority of permit holders ride saddle horses, which are typically not able to be trained to use containment devices, unlike the more easily trainable driving horses, which use to frequent the beach in higher numbers when Scarborough Downs housed horses at the track.

She said horse manure is biodegradable and people even come to her farm looking for it to use in compost in their gardens. She said she, and the horse community, wants to work with the council to “come up with a better plan that will work for everybody.”

Linda Voskian, a Driftwood Lane resident who frequently rides her horse on Pine Point Beach, said she, and the other members of the horse community, “are not here to argue or challenge” the council, but just want to be able to ride their horses on the beach. Voskian was under the impression horses could poop in the area between the low tide and water mark although, according to the ordinance permit holders must sign the permit, which states “an owner must remove and dispose of any feces left by his/her animal on any sidewalk, street, beach, public property, or private property.”

Susan Hamill, a resident of Bay Street, said she frequently runs and walks on Pine Point Beach and regularly finds horse droppings on the beach. She told councilors delaying the implementation of the containment device requirement is basically “allowing horse riders to disrespect Scarborough citizens for another year” and suggested staffing the beach with a police officer, something that, she said, would “pay for itself.”

Although they delayed the effective date, councilors seems keen to keep the containment device requirement, a requirement Old Orchard Beach dropped from their ordinance earlier this month.

“Everyone has a right to the beach, but everyone has the right to a clean beach,” said councilor Kate St. Clair, who added the issue of feces on the beach may be solved by the introduction of strategically placed trash cans, which are pulled off the beach during the off season.

Councilor Katy Foley said the council’s action was not about limiting access to the beach, but rather addressing complaints she has been hearing for years.

“The ordinance reads what it reads. Poop is supposed to be being picked up all along the way. I respect and understand what you are trying to argue about the compostability of the poop,” she said. “I had to learn this about keeping access for the dogs is people didn’t love my dog the way I love my dog. People don’t love your horses like you love your horses. The poop is still gross. People don’t want to step in it or have their dogs playing in it, so I am supportive of giving this a year.”

St. Clair said this may “be the wakeup call we need” to better clean and maintain the beach.

Councilor chairman Shawn Babine said “this is a good solution” to the issue, but “the delay will give us a year to consider different approaches.”

Zone change

Councilors also reconsidered a 4-2 vote made at their Oct. 4 meeting in which Donovan, Foley, Hayes and St. Clair voted not to rezone Enterprise Business Park property from business zone to Haigis Parkway zone in order for Bluebird Storage Company to build a 100,000-square-foot high-end self storage facility on the site. Last week they reversed the decision to allow the rezone to go through. The use is not allowed in the business zone, but after a separate council action Oct. 4, is allowed in the Haigis Parkway zone.

Donovan said he was driving home after the Oct. 4 meeting and started reflecting on the decision that was made and was struck by the fact the zone change was endorsed unanimously by the planning board, Scarborough Economic Development Corporation and long range planning committee “the entities we look to to scrub this type of proposal.”

Although Donovan came to a new realization, St. Clair was unmoved with her vote.

“While I feel there is a place for this type of business, I don’t think this is the right spot,” she said.

Likewise, Foley said she was “not opposed to the business or that type of structure, but allowing it on Route 1 was my concern.”

Councilor Chris Caiazzo was absent at the Oct. 4 meeting, but supports the rezone request because the town has been trying to entice development along Haigis Parkway and Enterprise Business Park and trusts the planning board will keep the council’s concerns in mind during the site plan review process.

Councilor Will Rowan said since the parcel is only accessible from the Enterprise Business Park, he didn’t see a problem keeping the zoning consistent with the Enterprise Business Park, which is in the Haigis Parkway zone.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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