Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By Gillian Graham email@example.com
SACO — During a meeting that drew close to 100 people Monday night, the City Council voted unanimously to hold a public hearing later this month on a proposal to restrict dogs on public beaches.
Shannan Hall-Nutting, owner of Finish Forward Dogs in Saco, plays with Curly at Bayview Beach Wednesday. Some Saco residents have complained that the beach has become a “dog mecca” since beaches in neighboring communities have curtailed dogs’ access.
Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer
Sasparilla, a Newfoundland puppy on a leash held by Inchieh Chen, left, of Kennebunk, runs over to Curly, a yellow lab on a leash held by Shannan Hall-Nutting of Saco at Bayview Beach Wednesday. Hall-Nutting said it would be unfortunate to lose beach access for dogs.
Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer
Councilors will not vote on the issue until after they hear from residents at the hearing on Aug. 20.
Councilors allowed some public comment Monday night, something they don't normally do during a proposal's first reading. Most residents who spoke urged councilors not to change current rules that allow dogs on beaches at any time.
Under the proposed ordinance, dogs would banned from beaches from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., June 15 to Sept. 15.
During those three months, dogs would be allowed off leash from sunrise to 9 a.m., under voice control.
The council's discussion was prompted by a letter from the Baywood Condominium Owner's Association, which says Saco has become a "mecca" for dog owners across southern Maine.
The letter outlines concerns about aggressive animals and dog feces left in the sand.
The council asked Police Chief Brad Paul to develop an ordinance for consideration. Paul proposed the ordinance based on Scarborough's rules.
City officials said the only complaints they have received about dogs on the beach have come from the condominium association. Mayor Mark Johnston said he has heard from residents of the condominiums who support allowing dogs on the beach.
No one from the association spoke at Monday's meeting.
Councilors Eric Cote and David Tripp said they do not support the proposed restrictions.
Dog owners who oppose the ban say they don't want to lose access to one of the only beaches in the area that allows dogs during the day.
Old Orchard Beach, Scarborough and Biddeford prohibit dogs on beaches during the day in the summer.
From April through September, dogs are banned from the beach at Ferry Beach State Park, between Saco's two stretches of public beach.
The public hearing will be held during the City Council's Aug. 20 meeting, starting at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Also Monday, the council unanimously approved appointments to the Regional School Unit 23 withdrawal committee and voted to hire Planning Decisions Inc. of Portland to prepare draft school budget alternatives for the city as part of the withdrawal process.
Residents voted 1,718 to 484 on July 31 to leave RSU 23, which also includes Old Orchard Beach and Dayton.
The withdrawal committee -- which will develop a plan that will need approval from the state Department of Education, school officials and residents -- will include Councilor Marston Lovell, former Mayor Bill Johnson and Vangel Cotsis, a member of the group that filed the withdrawal petition.
The committee also will include a school board member from Saco.
The City Council has set aside $30,000 for the withdrawal process.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org