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Many Issues to be Resolved before North Castle Dog Park Comes to Town

April 22, 2013
A recent work session was held to discuss the proposal of a dog park in North Castle in greater detail. Determining if a dog park is appropriate in Armonk and finding the most reasonable site remains the leading source of contention.

The North Castle Parks and Recreation Advisory Board unanimously recommended the location of Maple Avenue and Bedford Road as the preferred site for a dog park, said Councilman John Cronin. If Hurricane Sandy had not hit, it would have been cost-prohibitive to clean up. But FEMA will assume the costs to clear the damaged trees. Cronin said he initiated the topic again after the storm. He asked, "Is there a better site? I'm not aware of one; this site is suitable and the parking area will provide additional parking for events at Wampus Brook Park and for business owners in the neighborhood." He agreed that the plan needs to be discussed more with the Wampus Close neighbors.

“Once we have the Department of Transportation sign off on the property, we will present a formal proposal,” added Cronin. “I don't see a point to have a meeting before DOT signs off.”

We asked Councilman Cronin if the Town is asking DOT to buy the land or have an easement. DOT's land is on the perimeter of the lot near Route 22. To date, we have not received a response.

Councilwoman Diane Roth said a conglomerate of town professionals, including the town planner, an insurance agent, the town Attorney, Supervisor Howard Arden and she have met with North Castle residents and a dog trainer to work through some of the details.

The Town Board invited Dr. Marlyn Glasser, a dog-park consultant, to speak at the work session. Dr. Glasser said that, most importantly, the Town Board must decide whether or not a dog park makes sense and if it does, where it should be located; afterwards, a committee should be formed to determine the communities’ priorities, figure out the cost and understand the rules and issues associated with any controversies.

Typically, an advisory body of a group of dog-park supporters would be formed to help with the planning and review the rules, but not necessarily to make the policies. Also included in the process should be representatives from the North Castle Recreation Department, the dog officer, and a park-maintenance-crew member; additionally, neighbors should be informed and may want to be involved.

Dog parks generally and surprisingly are not noisy, said Glasser. You may hear a bark, with exceptions. But following through on the rules, such as necessitating an owner to remove a dog that is barking excessively, is one of the many issues that may be raised. Some dogs tend to be barkers and the hours of operation of the park may need to be restricted.  

Maintenance that is to be performed by the Town includes mowing the grass and picking up garbage. Dr. Glasser said users self-enforce picking up after their dogs and most owners are responsible for this task. She added that dog owners will often remind one another. If this were not working, dog parks would not be as popular as they are.  

The components necessary to build a dog park include a design based on the available space. Typically, Dr.Glasser said dogs parks are about one-acre of land that is divided into separate, fenced areas, one for small dogs and another for large dogs. There is also a transition, entry area, where owners leash or unleash their dogs. The owner can take his or her dog into the fenced-in area, close the door and open the second gate. Dr. Glasser recommends a grass surface to make it easy; then, if there is room, perhaps another area can be allocated for rotating fenced areas to allow the grass to grow back, if the park is used frequently and some of the grass gets worn.

The fenced-dog areas are enclosed by a chain-vinyl-coating fence, with a minimum height of five-to-six-feet, installed all the way to the ground with rails. Maintenance gates should also be installed. Fencing is 80 to 90% of the cost, says Glasser. A water fountain can cost between $3,000 and $4000, in addition to the cost of labor to hook it up and bring in water. Glasser says there needs to be a water fountain and advises against building the park without one. Otherwise, she feels you may end up with bowls and bottles lying around, which would look terrible.

Bringing water across from the park where there is a water source can be added to the wish list, said Councilwoman Diane Roth.

The extras may be added later, but all the components should be there before it opens, according to Glasser. A fountain is one of the things that is mandatory for people and dogs. People inevitably appreciate the fountain.

Glasser also recommends an area to lead up to the gate, composed of perhaps concrete pavement or bricks. Hopefully, there will also be an adequate number of benches, with hardscape underneath them as well. Having these amenities provides easier maintenance and looks more appealing. Convenient waste cans and stands with deposit bags should be located near the entrance. Finally, playground equipment is optional.

Glasser recommended instituting a set of rules, including one requiring dogs to be licensed. She reiterated that this typically involves self-enforcement. She also recommends that the dog- control officer drive by and check in at regular intervals.

The town's insurance carrier has 13 other towns that have dog parks and there is no additional insurance cost or liability, said Supervisor Howard Arden.

Another location for a dog park that had been considered was the space behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center. But there seems to be a portion of this area in a floodplain, said Town Administrator Joan Goldberg. Even so, Cronin said the Recreation Advisory Board has other plans to use the open space behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center. But he would not expand on what they might be.

Glasser recommends against requiring a dog permit. She advocates that the park have no fee, but Cronin said the dogs must be licensed and permits should be required for residents to use the park. Cronin said this should be handled by the Town Clerk's office, which currently issues dog licenses.  

Councilmen Michael Schiliro and Stephen D'Angelo said they were concerned about the process of considering a dog park. Schiliro said the town administrator should lead a group to review potential sites, consider the costs to build and maintain a dog park, and study the liability issues.

Cronin said this property has been discussed for years, and added that we should not pretend this is haphazard. He asked, "Why are you throwing up a red herring when you know it has to go through SEQRA?"

"How are we paying for it,” asked Schiliro?

Cronin said putting together the cost of the park is relatively easy. There would be a review of the building cost and maintenance.

Supervisor Arden said there is an anonymous donor who has asked to remain anonymous, but if this sight is approved, we'll reveal the donor.

The latest draft design was shown with parking along Bedford Road to push the fenced area so that it is farther away from the neighbors. This leaves about two acres of property for the park, said Arden.

Town Attorney Roland Baroni said including the park rules in the town code would require a public hearing, but that is unrelated to selecting the location.

Armonk resident Becky Kittredge, who served on the Town Board for decades, said she would like to see the IBM property, located beyond the track in Community Park, considered for a dog park. She added that IIBM has to be approached and that she plans to review the property with Councilwoman Roth.

"Put the Brakes on the Dog Park"

April 17, 2013
A group of North Castle residents and business owners emailed an online petition on April 9. The petition expresses concern about the negative impact that a Wampus Brook dog park will have on Wampus neighbors, the character of the historic downtown and the town budget.

Chairman of the Recreation Board Joseph DiMauro responded to the petition members in an email dated April 10. DiMauro said discussions about a dog park have been on the agenda of the North Castle Park and Recreation Advisory Board for over two years.  

The petition members say the location at the corner of Maple Avenue and Bedford Road is terribly out of place for a dog park. DiMauro says the Park and Recreation Advisory Board "considered a number of sites and Hurricane Sandy presented the community with a great site on Wampus Park, due to the tree damage that occurred on this piece of public property."

The petition asks residents to tell the town board to "take the time to complete its community outreach, site selection, budget, maintenance plan, draft oversight regulations, as well as quantify the 'community need' for a dog park at this time."

DiMauro said, “A private donor is going to fund the building of the park under the guidance of various town departments, such as the Building Department, Parks and Recreation Department and Advisory Board, Beautification Board, Town Attorney and Town Board.

"We aren't going to stand idly by and let our local, elected officials fast track this dog park with secret budgets and mystery benefactors, and without the input or involvement of the community who will be affected by the project," says the petitioners.  
 
DiMauro fired back and said, "There are no backroom politics here. Before making false and misleading statements such as this, you needed to do some research and not level accusations such as this against people who are only trying to do something for a welcome change for the community.”

In a follow-up letter dated April 16, the sponsors of "Put the Brakes on the Dog Park" petition said,  "As is clear by reading our petition, the concept of a dog park is not our concern. ….We are strongly opposed to the current proposed site."

Furthermore, the petitioners say, "We are confident that the citizens of North Castle will bring many positive ideas and clarifying opinions in an honest, open discussion about this issue. After such involvement, the needs and desires of the community regarding a dog park will be clearer."

The North Castle Town Board will hold a work session today, April 17, at the Town Annex meeting room. The meeting will start at 4 p.m. and the discussion about a dog park in North Castle is set to begin at 4:45 p.m. The Town Board typically uses a work session to gather information and discuss the topic among themselves and other town officials. Consultant Marilynn R. Glasser, the president of Parks and Pastimes, Inc., will be presenting her research on a dog park in North Castle. Community members are welcome to attend the meeting to observe only.

Town Board To Further Discuss Dog Park in a Work Session

April 1, 2013
Anytime more than two board members meet, a notice of the public meeting must be posted. "It's kind of nuts because how can you ever run a company without the directors getting together to discuss things?" asked Supervisor Howard Arden.

Supervisor Arden said he felt it was important to work with the North Castle Town Board during public work sessions. "I want everybody to know ahead of time that you are more than welcome to come; however, we don't entertain public comment at a work session: it is actually a time for the board to work and to discuss the issues at hand."

Sometimes during the Town Board’s work sessions, professionals will be invited to present information, as was the case with the discussion about the North Castle Dog Park. Marilynn R. Glasser, the president of Parks and Pastimes, Inc., will be attending North Castle's work session on April 17 at 4 p.m.

Ms. Glasser said she would gather the necessary information about a dog park in North Castle. She plans to share her perspective of the variables in determining the best location for the park. If and when particular options are eliminated, Glasser said, there will be reasons for it; nothing will be arbitrary, although "my role is to keep an open mind." But she anticipates that some people will be pleased, while others will be unhappy with the decision.

"In many cases, communities will put a dog park along a highway, which is an area that would not be used for anything else," said Glasser.

Although a location by the highway is best situated, other towns do not have dog parks near the entrance of their towns. Also, the Bedford-Maple Avenue, Wampus Brook Park might best remain a strolling park.

"The topics of discussion will come before the board, and perhaps there will be a public hearing on them," said Arden, "so that will be the time for residents to make their voices heard on those topics."

The scheduled time of a work session may be during the day when many people are at work. Fortunately, the sessions are typically taped and can be viewed on the town's website and TV station.

Comment

Updated March 25, 2013

An Open letter to Councilwoman Diane DiDonato Roth, Regarding a Dog Park in Armonk

Dear Councilwoman DiDonato Roth,

I admire your dedication and tenacity in securing a donor to finance a dog park in downtown Armonk. We have spoken many times on this subject, and you know that I also support having a place where residents can socialize with their dogs, while unleashed.

The location at the corner of Bedford Road and Maple Avenue is your recommendation for the dog park’s site, but you indicated that you are open to suggestions for other potential locations. 

Lombardi Park
I would like the North Castle Town Board to consider another town-owned property in Lombardi Park. If you walk past the basketball courts, immediately turn left and walk toward I-684, there’s a large strip of land that backs up to it.

I would appreciate it if you could look at this location within Lombardi Park; it presents several advantages as the site for a dog park.

The park is already established for recreational use and has a parking area; it is also tucked out of the way in the back of the park, and there are no homes in the area, so visitors and barking dogs would not disturb residents. Secondly, there are no fire sirens on this property. We have all experienced the loud noise when the siren goes off in the area that you propose. When this happens, it would likely frighten both the dogs and people.  

There are several other disadvantages to the Wampus Brook Park location at the corner of Bedford Road and Maple Avenue. The nearby residents of Wampus Close do not want the additional traffic that would be created with a dog park, nor do they want more dogs in their neighborhood. It’s a busy corner with a lot of traffic, especially during the drop-off and pickup times at the elementary and middle schools.

And the traffic is likely to increase with the soon-to- open Dicicco's supermarket at Armonk Square.

North Castle Water and Sewer Department
On the other hand, Wampus Brook Park, on either side of Bedford Road, is a wonderful gateway to downtown Armonk. The park, with its Gazebo, walking bridges that cross Wampus Brook and walking paths, is quaint, peaceful and beautiful.

Wampus Brook Park Armonk
Additionally, several tall pines in the park were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, the town has secured FEMA funds to pay for the work, which has already begun, to clean up the trees in the park. Let’s allow the Maple Avenue entrance of our town to remain beautifully lined, with a strolling path and benches in a leisure park, surrounded by the exquisite property of Mariani Gardens and the historic district of Bedford Road.

There are three dog parks neighboring our town; they are located in the city of White Plains and the towns of Bedford and Pleasantville. These parks can be reviewed for comparison purposes with a proposed dog park in North Castle.

Several observations were made recently after a Sunday afternoon visit to the dog parks: All the town dog parks are located in industrial areas, removed from the center of the towns. The parks are open-fenced fields, with gravel, mud and grass, or ground mulch. There are no trees inside any of the fences: we should consider how long the trees would last with “dogs' business.” On the mild, March afternoon, there were twenty dogs in two of the three parks that were open; Pleasantville’s park was closed as a result of work on a nearby cell tower.

Please take into consideration what your constituents want. You can read the recent blog in which readers of allaboutarmonk.com have commented that they favor a walk path and bike path over a dog park in the downtown hamlet of Armonk. Also, please review the results from the recreation survey that was sent by the Planning and Recreation Board in 2010, in which the responders' top priorities included bike path, indoor pool, hiking areas, and indoor ice skating. The low priorities were turf athletic fields, skate board park, gymnasium, domed athletic fields, and dog park.

Thank you for considering an alternate location that would offer our residents a useful amenity.

Best regards,

Michelle Boyle, Publisher of allaboutarmonk.com

Comment

More “To-do” about Proposed Dog Park in Armonk

March 21, 2013
At the March 13, 2013 North Castle Town Board meeting, a motion was made by Councilwoman Diane Roth to create a town dog park. About one acre of town owned property at Wampus Brook Park, located at the corner of Bedford Road and Maple Avenue at the entry of downtown Armonk from Route 22, is under consideration.

"I'm raising concerns about the process before you designate an area of the town as a dog park," said Councilman Mike Schiliro. There had been a discussion about a dog park at a Town Board meeting in late 2012; the work needed for tree removal as a result of the damages in the park area from the storm was discussed at the same meeting. Schiliro added, "I'm not opposed to a dog park. But there is no proposal, no site plan, no knowledge of cost, no budget, nor exploration of alternative locations, and we haven't talked with the Water and Sewer Department. The location may work, but we haven't heard from the residents, and there is no basis to designate this as a dog park.”

Councilman Steve D'Angelo asked if anyone were willing to study the proposal and the costs associated with running it annually. "We've done nothing as a board. But how do you create a dog park and then have a work session to talk about what it is?" asked D'Angelo.

Supervisor Howard Arden emphasized that they have, in fact, had many discussions about the dog park; he added that the reason it appeared on the agenda was to encourage the discussion and all the details.“The point to having the topic on the agenda was to have an open discussion about it, but this is not a discussion, Mike-- you are just ranting about the problems,” said Arden.

Councilman John Cronin commented that a lot of work has been done, but it has not been shared.“The Water and Sewer Department have been involved. Town Administrator Joan Goldberg and Councilman Diane Roth have looked at the property with a tree company. There have been discussions with fencing companies, a company that builds dog parks and other experts. Significant research has been done on the rules needed to manage the dog park and charges for use by residents and nonresidents. Discussions have taken place with the fire department about the concerns of the fire siren. We would like to affirm our interest in looking at this location, which was suggested by the North Castle Recreation Department years ago, but the cost of taking down the trees was prohibitive.”

FEMA will provide funds for the town to clean up the trees damaged by Hurricane Sandy from this area.

"I'm not voting today that we create a dog park at that location," said Cronin. "I am in favor of the location, but there is work to do," he added.

"We are so fortunate to have a sponsor who will step up to the plate with a rather large donation to pay for the park and an endowment that will go into the future. It is a good thing and I don't want the donor to be discouraged. It is a long process that we are going to go through, as we are at the beginning of doing the research," said Councilwoman Diane Roth. "It will be beautiful, with cherry trees, dogwoods and benches."

Norma Hill, a resident of nearby Wampus Close, said, "You drive into the town, and what do you see: you see Mariani Gardens on one side and you are going to see a dog park on the other corner? It's the wrong place.

"We live next door to it. We don't want a dog park on that corner. It is inappropriate. It is the entrance of our town and you're going to have a dog park. Our community will fight you on this. We do not want it. It's 18 houses, and we will grieve our taxes because it will create a disturbance in a residential area. You have to say ‘no’ if it is going to affect the quality of life."

Norma Hill asked some good questions: "I would like to see the plans; how high is the fence going to be; how is it going to be maintained; who is the benefactor; how long will the money last; and whether or not there will be money put into a trust to maintain it. I also need to know that it is not going to end up on the back of the taxpayers."

"It doesn't have to be that spot. I don't care where it is," said Councilwoman Roth. "But we are a little town and there aren't a lot of places. The problem is there are a finite number of locations, and for three months I have walked every field. If you come up with another location, let me know."

Perhaps a better location would be in Lombardi Park.

Norma Hill said, "The fact of the matter is, if there is no place for it, then we shouldn't have it."

"Why do we have to have a dog park? Why are we pushing to put it there?" asked Sue Berenson, another resident of Wampus Close.

"We are not pushing-- we thought it would be a nice thing to have," said Ms. Roth.

"Not there,” said Sue and Norma simultaneously.  

Norma Hill had a discussion with a member of the Bedford Dog Park Board, and he said, “You want to be very careful that you do not make the mistakes that we made.”

Bedford Town Clerk Boo Fumagalli said the important issue with regard to the Bedford dog park is the maintenance cost, which is budgeted between $15,000 to $20,000 annually for a large, 1.5-acre park. The maintenance involves mowing the lawn and picking up after the dogs. Although they give out bags, many people still don't pick up after their dogs and the town has to clean it up before it’s mowed, said Fumagalli. The park closes when there is a lot of snow or mud.

The positive aspect of a dog park is the socialization experience for the dogs and owners; it's also an opportunity for apartment dwellers to let their pets roam about, added Fumagalli. They have separated, fenced areas for small and large dogs, but Fumagalli said people don't obey the rule and bring their dogs to either area. Permit holders have requested a port-a-potty and running water. There have been legal issues with dogs biting people, and if the dogs are permitted, the town is liable, according to Fumagalli.  

Dr. Marilyn Glasser, the former Bedford assistant superintendent of parks, plans to make a presentation at the April 17th work session to discuss North Castle's dog park. Dr. Glasser was the individual responsible for the Bedford dog park. She secured a federal grant of $50,000, which required that the park be open to everyone. People residing in the area were not happy with this decision and the grant was returned to the government. For now, the park is supposed to be used by permit only.

A permit is required to use the Bedford dog park. It requires an application for a New York dog license from the Town Clerk’s office. Insurance mandates that permit holders' dogs have the required shots. Bedford dog park permits are currently held by less than 100 residents, who pay $45 per year for the first dog; they allow up to 50 nonresidents and have 30 nonresidents’ permits, each requiring a $125 annual fee. Fumagalli says that many people use the park without permits.  

A work session to discuss the dog park in North Castle is scheduled for April 17 at 4:00 p.m. at the Town Hall Meeting Room. A presentation will be made by Dr. Marilynn R. Glasser, President of Parks and Pastimes, Inc. The Parks and Pastimes.com website says, "Dr. Glasser has become a genuine ‘fan’ of dog parks and knowledgeable about their concept; design; components; amenities; benefits; operation; signage; maintenance."

Comment

Plans For A North Castle Dog Park Are Welcomed With Further Review

December 15, 2012
The open space next to Elide Plaza is currently under review by the North Castle Town Board for use as a public dog park. The property is covered with scattered, downed pines trees that fell during Superstorm Sandy. Funds may be available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to remove the downed trees, said Councilwoman Diane Roth.

Preliminary plans for a dog park located off of Maple Avenue, at the corners of Route 22 and Bedford Road have been drawn up by Engineering Consultants Kellard Sessions. The plans call for two-dozen parking spaces, with a gravel driveway and parking lot. Ownership of the lot is split approximately down the middle by the Town of North Castle and New York State Department of Transportation. On the state-side property, there is a stream that flows south from Wampus Brook and is diverted under Route 22. There is also a town sewage-pump station. Both the pumping station and the stream are shown outside the proposed chain-link fence.

Barbara DiGiacinto, a resident who owns Bull Terrier dogs, said she would like to see a new committee formed to properly plan the park.  

Professional guidance is in place, according to Councilman John Cronin, acting as Town Board liaison to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. Cronin said he does not see the need for a new committee; instead, he would like the North Caste Recreation Board to oversee the dog park plans. The plans have been recommended by the Park and Recreation Advisory Board, said Cronin. A professional, dog-park design company from Washington State has agreed to work on the plans. The overseeing committee plans to use the company for some of the additional costs such as the fence, perhaps some benches, a communal-watering area and waste disposal. The Town's Recreation Board, the Architectural Review Board and a few, local veterinarians are involved, said Roth.

DiGiacinto said the town should be assured that there are rules and regulations for public safety and health issues, in addition to fee permits. But Roth said she will seek private financial support for the project, which would not necessitate a user fee.

The Town of Bedford has a "Canine Commons" at the Beaver Dam Park, with a $40-annual fee for the residents' dogs.  An application for a dog-park license involves several rules, including a responsibility clause: "Any person bringing a dog into the facility assumes the legal responsibility, jointly and severally, with the owner of the dog, for any damage, disease or injury to persons, other dogs or property, caused by the dog. All persons using the facility, by entering it, agree to indemnify the Town of Bedford and hold the Town harmless for any harm resulting from the use of this facility."

The downside of the proposed Armonk location is twofold. Firstly, the town's fire siren is located on the property and the loud noise could frighten the dogs. The other potential drawback is the entrance and exit from the area, which are located at a busy intersection, at the corner of Bedford Road and Maple Avenue. This intersection is particularly busy during the early-morning and afternoon hours when the school buses drop off and pick up students, said Sewer and Parks Department Assistant Supervisor Sal Misiti.

The alternate location that should be considered is town-owned property behind the Hergenhan Recreation Center, said Councilman Mike Schiliro. The issue with this land is its proximity to the north side of Wampus Brook, and the possibility of flooding. As a result of the fire siren and the traffic issues, the rear section of the Hergenhan Center location might serve the town better, if the drainage issue were to be addressed.  

Either location would require a wetlands permit that would have to be reviewed by the Conservation Board. The plan would also need to be reviewed by the town engineer, said Town Attorney Roland Baroni.