North Yarmouth Town Meeting to tackle park pet rules, tax breaks for seniors

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Rules for pets at town parks and reviving a senior tax break program are among items voters will consider at Town Meeting Saturday, April 8.

A section regarding domestic animals in parks is proposed to be added to the Regulations for the Use of Parks and Recreation Areas ordinance, which is Article 5 on next weekend’s warrant.

“It is the goal of (North Yarmouth) that citizens can bring domestic animals to our parks for their owners’ enjoyment and the animals’,” the new language would state . “Priority shall always be given to citizens, wildlife, and the parks themselves.”

Dogs and horses are among domestic animals brought to North Yarmouth parks.

Pet-related commercial businesses, and other outside groups, would have to obtain permission from Town Manager Rosemary Roy to access the public land and pay an undetermined fee.

The town has received complaints at times when professional dog-walkers, bringing a group of canines to a park, run into issues with other people who are walking, or riding a bicycle or horse, “especially if the dogs aren’t on leashes,” Roy said in an interview March 29.

Every domestic animal “must be under the control of owners, leash, harness or immediate voice recall,” the proposed language states.

Issues between citizens can be worked out among themselves, but disputes can also be referred to the animal control officer or Roy. Users would be required to leash or harness the animal if another user requests it, and all users must clean up after their pets.

Animals cannot be a menace to wildlife, and any damage done by them to the parks will have to be repaired by the user, or the town will charge the cost to the user. Animals posing a risk to a person, another pet, wildlife, or the park can be barred at Roy’s discretion.

Organized town events at parks will take precedence over animals that are off-leash or off-harness. Hunting, where allowed on town lands, “will not be curtailed in favor of domestic animal use,” the amendments note. “State law shall apply to users deliberately impeding a legal hunt.”

If the amendments pass, the town will install signs at every park reflecting the new provisions. The changes give town officials more latitude in enforcing policies in those areas.

Senior tax break

North Yarmouth also may revive and update a senior property tax assistance program, which it has not funded since fiscal year 2014. The state abolished the Circuit Breaker program; Cumberland created its own version of the initiative last year, and North Yarmouth would do the same.

The Board of Selectmen is proposing to draw $50,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance of approximately $1.4 million to start the program. The Budget Committee recommends using $30,000. Residents will vote on an allocation along with other elements of a proposed $2.56 million municipal budget, at Town Meeting.

The Board of Selectmen also decided by consensus last July to amend the Town Charter to call itself the Select Board, in order not to reflect a specific gender, according to Roy. The change will not be official until several charter amendments, such as those to the Property Tax Assistance Ordinance, are approved at Town Meeting.

The senior tax break program would give those who qualify a $1,000 credit, or discount, on their annual tax bill. Eligible applicants must have a total household income of $45,000 or less, be at least 70 years old, and have lived in town for 10 years and in the house for at least a year.

Residents can learn more by calling Roy at 829-3705 or emailing manager@northyarmouth.org. The deadline to apply would be June 30.

It is unknown how many people the program would address.

“If we were to look at statistics in general, there’s not a high volume or need for it,” Roy said. “You really don’t know until you put it out there.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.