SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Without much time to report on methods to protect wildlife and provide access to public properties for dogs, an ad hoc committee created to discuss revisions to the animal control ordinance meets for the first time Friday.
Town Manager Tom Hall on Tuesday said the 5:15 p.m. meeting in his conference room on Dec. 27 is the only convenient time for all seven members of the panel.
The committee, formed to “advise the town manager and Town Council on strategies to promote reasonable and appropriate protections for Piping Plovers and all necessary regulations relating to the control of dogs on beaches and town property,” faces a Jan. 21 deadline to report to councilors.
Hall and the councilors would like any revisions to the Animal Control Ordinance to be ready by April 1, 2014. That is the annual date suggested by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to ban dogs from being off leash on town beaches in order to protect the endangered piping plover.
The current ordinance allows dogs to be off leash at all times throughout the year, except from June 15 to Sept. 15, when the off-leash hours are sunrise to 9 a.m.
Leaving the ordinance unchanged could mean the agency would reinstate a $12,000 fine it proposed after concluding a lack of town oversight contributed to the July 15 killing of a piping plover on Pine Point Beach.
The compressed committee work schedule was seen both as a problem and benefit by committee members.
Member Katy Foley, who led the Dec. 3 repeal of the town-wide leash law enacted Oct. 2., on Tuesday said she was disappointed by composition of the committee.
“I’m trying to reach out. I have no preconceived notions. I will give every person the benefit of the doubt,” Foley said. “I feel strongly we have not been given the time to do the things we need to do.”
Hall also selected Councilor Bill Donovan, and residents Noah Perlut, Glennis Chabot, Margot Hodgkins, Lucy Lacasse and Daniel Ravin for the committee.
Foley had suggested the committee have a 3-to-1 ratio of voters who rejected the leash law, and more than seven members to fully represent all stakeholders.
Hall told councilors Dec. 18 the committee has five dog owners and was split between supporters of the repeal and the leash law.
Chabot, a member of the Higgins Beach Association, said Monday she expects the information gathered by the panel and by the Dog Owners of Greater Scarborough (the repeal political action committee) will make the committee’s task less daunting.
“I’m really anxious to hear what the DOGS group is thinking,” Chabot said. “I’m willing to listen, I’m going in with an open mind, but I want to protect the birds. But I don’t want the town to be subjected to fines.”
Chabot said she supported the leash law, and has also spent the last two years distributing information to summer residents at Higgins Beach about protecting plovers. She is not a dog owner, but has owned dogs in the past.
Lacasse, a birder, dog owner and repeal supporter, said the committee’s schedule is acceptable to her. “You can hash this stuff out forever,” she said.
She also said she supports keeping dogs leashed during the piping plover nesting season.
“For better or worse, (piping plovers) like the same beaches we do, but don’t have the same capacity to protect themselves,” Lacasse said.