08/13/13 6:32pm
08/13/2013 6:32 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | The Southold Town Board approved a law to regulate dogs roaming free on the beach at its meeting Tuesday.

More than a year after it was first proposed, the Southold Town Board passed its hotly debated leash law during its regular session Tuesday night.

The law is less restrictive than the one previously on the books that barred dogs on town-owned beach at all times. Now dogs will only be restricted on beach during certain hours.

The board voted 5 to 1 in favor of the law, with Councilman Jim Dinizio in opposition.

“There are reasons why the law is the way it is currently,” Mr. Dinizio said before the vote. “Dogs on the beach with strangers is at best a nerve-racking situation.”

During a series of public hearings on the issue, the community voiced overwhelming support for allowing dogs to run freely on the beach. Seeking to find middle ground, the town revised the law to ban dogs from town-owned beaches between May 1 and Oct. 1 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dogs could run free on town beaches during the offseason.

The policy also prohibits dogs and other domestic animals in recreation areas, picnic spots, children’s play areas and athletic fields where “no dogs allowed” signs are posted. Exemptions for service and hunting dogs will be built into the law.

“After talking with all these people for the last year, I think this is a compromise,” Councilwoman Jill Doherty said. “We owe the people a chance to try it.”

Board members said they would revise and adjust the policy in the future should problems arise.

The town is now working with the chief of police and bay constables to develop means of enforcing the code, Supervisor Scott Russell said. The town also plans to establish more extensive signage on beaches alerting people to the policy change, he said.

[email protected]

08/13/13 8:00am

The proposed zoning of Plum Island is back up for a public hearing tonight at Southold Town Hall.

The latest revision of the document includes changes to the minimum lot area for the conservation and research districts.

The revised proposal reduces the minimum lot area for the research district from 150 to 125 acres and trims the minimum lot area for the conservation district from 500 to 350 acres.

The draft zoning regulations would divide Plum Island into three districts for research, conservation and a Marine District that would encompass the existing ferry facilities. Last month, the pressure to zone the island was turned up a notch when the final federal recommendation from the U.S. General Services Administration advised selling the land to a private party and suggested building houses on the property.

The recommendation is in direct conflict to the Town’s island-specific zoning regulations that would prevent large-scale development if the island were sold, officials said.

Also tonight, the board is set to vote on a proposed law aiming to regulate dogs on the beach.

The new policy is more than a year in the making. If passed, dogs would be banned from town-owned beaches between May 1 to Oct. 1 from 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dogs will be allowed to run free on town beaches during the off-season, according to the proposal.

The draft law is less restrictive than the town’s current policy, which prohibits dogs on town beaches at all times.

Once the new policy is in place, the board will work with its police department and bay constables to develop methods of enforcing the code, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.

The meeting is tonight at 4:30 p.m. in the  Town Hall meeting room.

[email protected]

08/01/13 8:00am
08/01/2013 8:00 AM

In a town where contentious issues can be the exception rather than the rule, Southold Town Board meetings can be ho-hum affairs. That certainly wasn’t the case this week, when the board hit the trifecta on thorny issues.

This week’s agenda included a vote on the long-pending special events code, a continuation of the often heated dogs-on-the-beach debate and choosing a date for a hearing on banning parking along Route 48 in the vicinity of Vineyard 48. Obviously, two of those agenda items come as part of the town’s ongoing battle with Vineyard 48, which has absolutely nothing to do with dogs on the beach. What they have in common, however, is all offer evidence that Southold isn’t what Southold was.

That is, unfortunately, not breaking news, but it’s both the upshot and the downside of being “discovered.”

Anyone who owns a dog knows how much enjoyment their pet can get cutting loose on the beach. It’s one of the simple joys and benefits of living out here. But so is the ability to sit and enjoy the beach in peace. More people can mean more pets and a greater chance of animal-human conflict. As anyone who’s followed this story knows, animal issues are often emotional issues in Southold, as they are elsewhere. We think the board did well in crafting a fair and workable solution that accommodates both sides.

The events law is a whole ’nother animal. The warring sides in this case are vineyards and other farmers, who say they’re trying new and innovative ways to remain financially viable, and residents who say the peaceful enjoyment of their properties is compromised by events not tied to traditional agriculture. In this case, the presence of more people, both on and off open fields, is at the root of the conflict.

Some ag industry representatives aren’t happy with the events law as adopted but, as with the leash law, the Town Board straddled a political picket fence and there was no way to satisfy everyone. It won’t take long, though, to learn if it works or if it chokes off ag economic opportunities.

As for the Route 48 parking ban, Vineyard 48 may not be pleased, but it’s clear something must be done; public safety always trumps parking convenience.

07/31/13 12:55pm
07/31/2013 12:55 PM

Previous public discussions on Southold Town’s proposed leash law often drew dozens of people, but attendance at Tuesday night’s hearing was noticeably sparse in comparison.

Only a handful of people attended the Town Board’s third hearing in the past six months on a draft law designating specific times dogs are permitted on town beaches without leashes. But unleashed dogs run through other recreation areas at any time.

This week, for the first time, those against allowing dogs on the beach appeared to be as equally vocal as leash law supporters.

“You lost me on the logic,” said Mary McTigue of Southold. “Why in a recreation area such as a park would a leash be required, but if I’m on a beach it’s not? All bets are off at 6 o’clock?”

Current policy prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. After a first public hearing earlier this year, those who spoke overwhelmingly supported the idea of allowing dogs to run freely on the beach. Seeking a compromise, the town revised the proposal to ban dogs from town-owned beaches between May 1 and Oct. 1 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dogs could run free on town beaches during the off-season.

The draft also prohibits dogs and other domestic animals in recreation areas, picnic spots, children’s play areas and athletic fields where “no dogs allowed” signs are posted. Exemptions would be made for service and hunting dogs.

The town began re-examining its policies last year after Mattituck resident Dan Catullo said he was attacked on Bailie Beach near his home.

“This happened outside the purview of your proposed new law,” he said. “Thus rendering moot the very problem that has precipitated this action in the first place. I don’t want them in my yard or at my throat.”

Mr. Catullo said Southold has the draft law backward. He cited East Hampton’s recent approval of a dog leash law that requires pet owners to keep dogs leashed at all times while on the beach. East Hampton’s law reversed its previous policy that permitted dogs on the beach during the summer season during designated hours.

“They have seen the light in my view,” Mr. Catullo said. “Apparently these people are wise enough to go in that direction. It seems to me we are not wise enough to do the same.”

Fueling the concerns of the opposition, Councilman Chris Talbot suggested the leash law would probably not be enforced.

“Have you gotten a ticket for your dog walking around on the beach now?” Mr. Talbot said. “I find it hard to believe something would happen.”

Once a new policy is in place, the board will work with the chief of police and bay constables to develop methods of enforcing the code, Supervisor Scott Russell said.

The board tabled the leash law, but is expected to re-address the policy during its Aug. 13 meeting.

[email protected]

07/30/13 8:00am
07/30/2013 8:00 AM
FILE PHOTO | The confusion surrounding the leash law in Southold Town has been cleared up under the new draft law, officials said.

FILE PHOTO | The confusion surrounding the leash law in Southold Town has been cleared up under the new draft law, officials said.

More than a year after it was first proposed, Southold Town officials believe they have reached a compromise on a long-awaited leash law policy.

Now it’s the public’s turn to weigh in.

Board members will hold another public hearing to discuss the proposal tonight. The new draft law includes suggestions made from the public during previous town meetings, officials said.

The current policy prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. If the proposal becomes law, dogs will be banned from town-owned beaches between May 1 to October 1 from 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dogs will then be allowed to run free on town beaches during the off-season, according to the proposal.

The new policy will still restrict dogs and other domestic animals from recreation areas, picnic areas, children’s play areas and athletic fields at all times. While “no dogs are allowed” signs will remain in those areas, exemptions will be made for hunting and service dogs, officials said.

The public hearing is tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.

[email protected]

06/19/13 2:00pm
06/19/2013 2:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Southold Town Board has scheduled a public hearing July 30 to discuss a lease law proposal.

Southold Town officials said Tuesday they believe a compromise has been reached on the long awaited leash law.

During its regular session Tuesday, board members set a second public hearing to discuss the proposal for July 30 at 7:30 p.m. The proposed law now includes suggestions made from the public during previous town meetings, officials said.

The current policy prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. If the proposal becomes law, dogs will be banned from town-owned beaches between May 1 to October 1 from 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dogs will be allowed to run free on town beaches during the off-season, according to the proposal.

The new policy will still restrict dogs and other domestic animals from recreation areas, picnic areas, children’s play areas and athletic fields. While “no dogs are allowed” signs will remain in those areas, exemptions will be made for hunting and service dogs, officials said.

Once the new policy is in place, the board will work with its police department and bay constables to develop methods of enforcing the code, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said.

[email protected]

05/28/13 10:41am
05/28/2013 10:41 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The town may soon have a say on dogs on the beach, such as this one taking a dip at Goose Creek in Southold.

To the Editor:

Thanks for keeping us up to date on this important issue.

Your web post article “Closing in on leash law compromise” fails to mention that dog owners should be reminded of their responsibility, under current town code, to pick up and properly dispose of their dog’s waste on the beach or, for that matter, anywhere except on their own private property.

The historical failure of dog owners to pick up their pets’ poop has been one of the main issues with allowing dogs on the beach at all. Responsible dog owners understand this requirement and set good examples for all by their public behavior. Irresponsible dog owners miss the point (and ignore the legal requirement) and somehow pass the responsibility off, often by blaming their dog for any bad behaviors.

Owning a pet requires one to accept certain public health and safety responsibilities if one is going to go out in public spaces with their animals. These used to be common sense actions, but now it seems we have to legislate them for our community’s own good.

The people who complain about “overregulation” and “too much government in their lives” are creating this situation by their own actions. I hope all dog owners will help each other by setting good examples for others to follow, because we all have so much in common, including the love of our dogs and our wish for a good life for our pets.

Jim Baker, New Suffolk

05/23/13 5:20pm
05/23/2013 5:20 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Restricting the dates and hours dogs are permitted on Southold  beaches is a sticking point for a policy attempting to reach a compromise on the controversial issue.

Comprise seemed hard to come by regarding Southold Town’s efforts to update its dog leash law, but officials took another stab at it during Thursday’s code committee meeting.

This time they may have succeeded.

After a 20-minute discussion, officials suggested easing the law that currently prohibits dogs on town-owned beaches at all times. One alternative would ban dogs from town-owned beaches from May 1 to October 1 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. A second proposal would shorten that period to begin on Memorial Day and run through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Under both proposals dogs would be allowed to run free on town beaches during the off-season.

The code committee includes only a few Town Board members. The group instructed Town Attorney Martin Finnegan to draw up a draft of the changes to to present to the full board. Supervisor Scott Russell said he favors keeping dogs off the beach past the traditional end of summer.

“We are still an active community after Labor Day so I would want to defer to the board on that,” he said.

The town would continue to restrict dogs and other domestic animals in recreation areas, picnic areas, children’s play areas and athletic fields where signs are posted saying no dogs are allowed. Exemptions would be made for hunting and service dogs.

Once a new policy is in place the board will work with the chief of police and bay constables to develop methods of enforcing the code, the supervisor said.

[email protected]