Proposed leash law dominates Scarborough council discussion

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SCARBOROUGH — Residents’ frustration about a suggested new dog leash ordinance dominated public discussion at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, even though no action or agenda items pertained to the proposal. 

In addition to addressing those concerns, Councilors (with Councilor Jessica Holbrook absent) approved licenses for a new restaurant to take over what was the First & Last Tavern on Pine Point, and approved a bond order for municipal and school projects for the current fiscal year.

Revisions of beach and town-wide animal control ordinances began last September when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed fining the town $12,000 for insufficient regulations protecting endangered plovers nesting on the town’s beaches after one was killed by a dog last July.

After a referendum in December on a town-wide ban on off-leash dogs was struck down by nearly a 3-1 margin, an ad-hoc committee began crafting an ordinance that would satisfy dog owners and adequately protect endangered plovers. 

At the last Town Council workshop on March 6, Councilor and ad-hoc committee member Bill Donovan presented the committee’s suggestions for a new animal control ordinance. Among several ideas, the proposal would restrict dogs from being off-leash in known plover nesting areas on town beaches during certain times of year, but would still reserve other sections of the beach for off-leash use during certain times of day. 

Seven members of the public came forward Wednesday to express their concerns about the proposed changes. Many said the majority vote from the initial referendum was not adequately reflected in the committee’s recommendations.

“As my elected representatives, I want to have confidence in you that you are respecting the majority, and more importantly the will of the majority,” Joanne Mahoney said. 

“The town has spoken, and I’m appalled,” Peter Hayes said. “You are supposed to work for us, the town residents, and represent our interests.”

Few residents were as agitated, however, as Pammela Rovner, who, although she never named him specifically, claimed Donovan has special interests because he is a Higgins Beach resident.

Council Chairman Richard Sullivan warned Rovner against personally attacking a councilor and told her twice that she was out of order before asking her to leave the podium.

Another resident, Liam Somers, suggested Donovan has a conflict of interest and requested that the councilor recuse himself from voting on any final versions of the ordinance.

Councilor Katherine St. Clair asserted that the council is listening, and urged residents not to lose faith in councilors or the process.

“I know this process hasn’t made everybody happy, quite frankly it hasn’t made me real happy at times, but I believe in this council and I believe we’re going to get there,” she said. “We owe that to the people of Scarborough.”

Sullivan and Councilor Jean Marie Caterina also emphasized that suggestions for the ordinance were not set in stone and that they would hear further comments when a formal draft is complete, which will not be until April 2. 

In other business, the council approved the license for the Pine Point Grille at 240 Pine Point Road. The location was formerly the First & Last Tavern, which closed after finishing its seasonal operation last summer.

The council authorized a set of bond orders for long-term municipal and school capital improvements for the current fiscal year that had already been funded in the current budget, including the purchase of several plow trucks, a school bus, and a Black Point sidewalk project.

The total appropriated for the projects was $4.4 million. 

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.