Present: Ketcham, Pemberton, Takacs
Also present: more than 30members of the public and a representative of the Redding Pilot.
First Selectman Ketcham called the August 26, 2013 meeting to order at 7:30 pm.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Motion: move to approve the minutes of the July 15, 2013 meeting as submitted. Takacs, Pemberton. Approved. Unanimous.
DISCUSSION OF PROPOSED LEASH ORDINANCE
First Selectman Ketcham reviewed the topic. The Park & Recreation Commission proposed a Town Ordinance requiring dogs to be leashed on all town-owned properties. The Board of Selectmen, at their last meeting, confined the discussion of the proposed ordinance to Topstone Park. The current problem is that the rule/regulation at Topstone Park to have dogs leashed is that it is not enforceable. State Statute requires dogs to be under the control of the owner/walker.
Mrs. Ketcham consulted with Town Counsel, Michael Lavelle, and he pointed out the issues related to enforcement of such an ordinance, including the appeals process. Chief Fuchs suggested that state infraction could be issued, and that appeal process would go to the State rather than the Town along with any revenue.
The discussion was opened to comments from the public.
Rorie Gerschwer, Topstone Road: Mrs. Gerschwer stated that her dog is always leashed when at the Park. She asked what prompted or sparked this measure.
Paul Degener, Park & Recreation Commission Chairman: Mr. Degener stated that over the past 4 or 5 years the Commission has heard complaints from Topstone Beach patrons and staff that the dog owners/walkers are not heeding the signs requiring that dogs should be leashed. Signs have been posted and the beach staff has attempted to enforce the rule, but those attempts are typically ignored. The Commission is concerned about the safety of children and adults using the Park.
Rob Blick, Park & Recreation Director: Mr. Blick explained the difficulty of asking the staff to enforce the dog leash rule and the response they get from dog owners.
Bill Rossiter, Mountainview Road: Mr. Rossiter uses the Park on a frequent basis and differs in view from that of Mr. Degener. He feels the Park is for people and dogs to use and enjoy. He suggested getting a list of offenders and address them directly.
Benjamin Hume: Mr. Hume is opposed to an ordinance or law on the issue. Topstone Park is one of the few places in town open for dogs. He questioned how the Topstone trails would be monitored for dogs not on leashes.
David Pattee, Conservation Commission Chairman: The Conservation Commission has no special policy or law regarding dogs, except that they must be under the owner/walkers control per State Statute.
Don Stroetzel: Mr. Stroetzel commented that an ordinance would punish the dog owners/walkers. He does not feel an ordinance is necessary and that the dog owners/walkers are a responsible group.
Paul Degener: Mr. Degener noted that the request for the ordinance specifies that there would be a careful and judicious enforcement of the ordinance after an initial warning. The Park & Recreation Commission is viewing the ordinance primarily from a safety standpoint, safety for the patrons and visitors from other towns.
Janet Metzger, Dayton Road: Mrs. Metzger suggested publishing the rules/regulations and the issue that unleashed dogs create would be helpful. Raising the public’s awareness of the problem may correct the problem. She does not believe an ordinance is needed.
Gary Miyashiro, member of the Park & Recreation Commission: Mr. Miyashiro commented that the current rule/regulations exist, but nothing can be done to enforce them.
Tom Hauser, Charlie Hill Road: Mr. Hauser suggested a compromise, suggesting limiting the discussion and proposal to the common areas, the beach, parking lot and driveway. He added that it is not practical to have dogs leashed on the trails, and he has seldom seen anyone walking the trails without a dog.
Diane Stroetzel: Mrs. Stroetzel commented on how important it was to her and her husband to walk the dogs on the Topstone trails, without the leashes. She also commented on the speed that some of the cars travel on the road and suggested that the issue be addressed.
Ben Kelly, Bayberry Lane: Mr. Kelly commented that one of the factors that made him purchase a home in Redding was the access to Topstone Park and trails that are dog friendly. He agreed that the dogs should be leased on the roadway, for the safety of the dog. He suggested the scope of the proposal be narrowed to the beach, parking lot and roadway, and apply to the peak hours of beach use.
Rory O’Donnell, Topstone Beach Director: Mr. O’Donnell stated that the beach staff gets complaints from parents of young children that there are dogs unleashed in the parking lot. The staff cannot do anything to enforce the rule requiring dogs to be leashed. When staff members try to address the issue with dog owners, they are often spoken to in an inappropriate way. Dogs are not allowed on the beach at any time for safety and sanitary reasons, and this is frequently ignored, especially before and after the beach area is in use.
Dana Gray, Lampost Drive: Mrs. Gray walks her dogs daily and believes the dog owners can police themselves. She noted that most leash the dogs on the roadway and parking lot, but the dogs enjoy being off leash on the trails. She has not seen any incidents or problems with injuries. Reddingites know that the beach area is off limits for dogs.
Kristen (name unclear), Topstone Road: She stated that she moved to Redding because of Topstone Park. She was in agreement with what other dog walkers are saying. She believes the dog owners/walkers should police themselves. The staff of the beach should not be subjected to verbal abuse.
Bill Rossiter: Mr. Rossiter suggested that there must be some way to identify those individuals who are creating the problem, perhaps with photos.
Rob Blick: Mr. Blick stated that there have been no severe incidents, but the Commission is attempting to prevent one. People have complained that they could not walk the trail because of the unleashed dogs. He has had an incident with a dog, and the owner was not in sight. The dogs should be under the control and within sight of the owner. In general, he added that people do not comply when asked to put their dog on a leash.
David Rybarczyk, Topledge Road: Mr. Rybarczyk commented that he has never encountered dogs on the trails out of control of the owner. He does not believe the ordinance would address the issue.
Charlie Couch, Topstone Road: Mr. Couch commented that he has had encounters with dogs with no owner in sight, and has received a negative reaction from the dog owner when asked to put them on a leash. He is in support of enforcing the leash rule.
Pamela Rybarczyk, Topledge Road: Mrs. Rybarczyk asked if the hearing process involved with the enforcement of the ordinance would cost the taxpayer money.
Mrs. Ketcham stated that the process moving forward is to further consider the ordinance or make revisions. If the Board of Selectmen recommends moving forward with an ordinance, it must go to a Town Meeting for approval.
Michael Thompson: Mr. Thompson asked if a decision would be made tonight. Mrs. Ketcham responded that it would not, and the Board would take as long as needed and will make a decision one way or another.
Gene Connolly: Mr. Connolly suggested an alternate proposal, listing specific time, days, etc. and limit or prohibit unleashed dogs on the drive roadway and parking lot.
Steve (name unclear), Topstone Road. This person finds that the ordinance is restrictive, and is something they do not intend to enforce.
Janet Metzger, Dayton Road: Mrs. Metzger suggested that this is an educational opportunity, that the rules should be advertised. The dog people and people/children using Topstone need to be educated.
Charles Silbert: Most of the dog owners know one another. He has never seen a dog on the trails out of control or being aggressive.
Marshall Metzger, Dayton Road: Mr. Metzger stated that the answer is not a legislative one, but an opportunity to educate the users of the park.
Andy Scott, Black Rock Turnpike: Mr. Scott commented this may be an opportunity for the Boys & Girls Club community service student to be involved. Perhaps they could be as an asset and be used to educate and inform the users of the Park.
Paul Degener: Mr. Degener commented that the official dog park, McGee’s Hole, has not been used much recently. He asked that if the dog people had ideas for programs or dog activities, the Park & Recreation Department would like to hear them.
Mrs. Pemberton stated that the there is a need to make the public more aware of the problem. She suggested a compromise on the rule or ordinance, but added that the Park should be kept enjoyable for all. She stated that perhaps the leash dog issue should be limited to the common areas of the Park, the drive, parking lot and the beach.
Mrs. Ketcham stated that the issue would be explored further. She will get further information from Town Counsel and perhaps a more narrow scope of the regulation will be explored. The topic will be on the agenda for the September meeting.
DISCUSSION OF DEMOLITION DELAY ORDINANCE
Currently Redding has a Zoning Regulation that structures over 50 years of age must go through a 90 day delay to allow for the evaluation of the structure to determine if the structure or elements are worthy of saving, documented or being restored. The State of Connecticut recently has changed the delay period to 180 days and does not specify the age of the structure.
Jo-an Brooks, the Land Use Coordinator, explained that the ordinance being proposed deletes the age of the structure and includes a 180 day delay. The proposed ordinance takes the issue out of the Zoning Regulations. She noted that the 50 year age is arbitrary and not really appropriate at this time. The purpose of the 180 day delay is to allow the time needed to do an architectural and historical review of the structure proposed for demolition. Town Historian, Kathleen Von Jena, explained that the proposed process is better and allows the opportunity to catch those historic buildings that should be saved. The ordinance does not prevent the structure from being demolished, but does allow for an evaluation process and an opportunity to negotiate with the property owner. Stuart Reeve added that the negotiation may encourage the owner to modify their plans to include elements of the structure that are historic in nature and/or allow the documentation of the structure. This is an opportunity to protect the cultural heritage of Redding.
Mrs. Ketcham read a letter from Ray D’Angelo of the Redding Preservation Society supporting the proposed ordinance with the 180 day delay. Several members of the audience also spoke in support of the ordinance. Charlie Couch spoke of his experience in documenting historic structures and the time that the process takes.
The Board of Selectmen will send the proposed ordinance to Town Counsel for review. This will be a discussion item for the September meeting.
- Update on Deer Wardens: David Pattee of the Conservation Commission explained that the bow-hunting program in Redding began about six years ago in reaction to a concern about the forest understory. The forest understory on town-owned property appeared to be disappearing as a result of the deer population feeding on the vegetation. The bow-hunting program was managed by deer wardens and was very successful for about five years. Last year the deer wardens resigned. The Conservation Commission, under the leadership of Joe Beres, plans to revitalize the program. Two Redding volunteers, Chris Siburn and Mike Conroy have come forward to manage the program. They hope to have the program up and running in September. Mrs. Ketcham asked that the names of bow hunters be provided to her office or the Town Clerk for individual property owners who have a desire to allow bow hunting on their private property.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Selectmen authorize the First Selectmen to appoint Chris Siburn and Mike Conroy as deer wardens. Pemberton, Takacs. Approved. Unanimous.
- Update on Town Meeting Notification Survey: Mrs. Pemberton has prepared a brief survey to determine how residents of Redding prefer to be notified of town meetings. The options include the Alert system residents can sign up for, notice in the paper (Redding Pilot), town-wide mailing (cost will be included) and automated phone call. The availability of the survey will be publicized on the Town Website, in the Redding Pilot and on the Town Facebook page. She anticipates launching the survey this week.
- Update on Town Website Video: Mrs. Pemberton reported the video and narration is almost complete. The Video will appear on the Town’s Website on the home page. This should be up and running in early September.
- Update on letter to DOT Commissioner regarding train horn blowing in West Redding: Mrs. Ketcham received a response to her letter that the Federal Railroad Commissioner has authority over these issues now. She has asked Congressman Jim Hines to intervene on the matter on behalf of the town. Mrs. Ketcham also had a question from a member of the public regarding her statement at the previous meeting regarding the cost of the quad gates. The information that the cost of the quad gates would range from $3 to 4 million was information she received in an email on August 13, 2013 from Gilbert Smart in the Rail Division of the Department of Transportation.
- Date for annual Employee Appreciation Luncheon: tentative dates of Monday September 23 and September 30 were discussed. This will be finalized later in the week.
Motion: move that the Redding Board of Selectmen reappoint Hank Bielawa as Alternate on the Board of Ethics with a term of 8/1/13 to 8/1/15. Pemberton, Takacs. Approved. Unanimous.
Motion: move to adjourn the meeting. Takacs, Pemberton. Approved. Unanimous.
The meeting adjourned at 10:36 pm.
Mary Maday, Recording Secretary