Pinecrest council members will compare two competing plans for dog parks — one at Veterans Wayside Park and one on what is now a parking lot in Chapman Field Park.
The council also asked dog-park advocates to meet with members of the American Legion, who were insulted at the prospect of turning Veterans Wayside into a dog park, to try to reach an accommodation.
More than 60 people filled the council chambers Tuesday night, some to talk about the dog park, and others to discuss disputes between vendors and the group running the village’s popular farmers market. Mayor Cindy Lerner invited the market vendors to air their concerns, but after three hours of talk about the dog park, a majority of the council refused to hear from the vendors, prompting some to storm out.
Veterans Wayside was the original dog park site in 2010, but Lerner re-introduced the park last month after all other potential properties failed, including the lot at Chapman Field that Miami Dade County now wants to turn into a dog park by December 2014.
In a 4-1 vote, the council asked village staff to create a conceptual plan and costs analysis of a dog park at Veterans Wayside, so they may adequately compare it with the county’s plan. Councilman Bob Ross dissented.
“I want a dog park,” said Vice Mayor Jeff Cutler. “But we want it to be right. If we were voting for a dog park tonight, it would fail.”
Meanwhile, members of American Legion posts in Coral Gables, Palmetto Bay and Cutler Bay, told the council that the transformation of the Wayside Park would dishonor the park’s dedication as a veterans’ memorial in 2007. They attended with a petition from veterans who live adjacent to the park, and other residents agreed.
Pinecrest resident Kathy Hersh had other concerns about the site’s suitability as a dog park.
“It’s the only open green space that we have left,” said Hersh, adding that it has become a habitat for birds and a vibrant ecosystem for other animals that exist there. “And it’s going to be congested and cause even more congestion in an area that is already very busy.”
Dozens of dog park advocates sat in the council chamber dressed in white t-shirts that read “Speak to Support Pinecrest Dog Park at Veterans Wayside.” They were accompanied by a man dressed in a dog costume.
They too showed up with 1,000 signatures they gathered over the span of two months and argued the park is underused and can better honor vets as well as dogs that assist vets if changed to a dog park.
Also on Tuesday, Miami-Dade parks department Deputy Director George Navarrete told the council that the county has already allocated $500,000 from a 2004 county bond referendum for a project at Chapman Field.
The site is located at the entrance of the park on Old Cutler Road and Southwest 136th Street, near the county’s trash transfer station and just outside the village.
The country has identified 1.7 acres, but the future park will be less than an acre because it needs to include parking spaces, and it is next to mangroves and sensitive plants that can’t be uprooted.
“I hate to make decisions when we know something is coming down the pike like that, which is exactly what we’ve wanted,” said Councilman James McDonald. “When the county is willing to spend their money and it’s next to Pinecrest, we owe it to ourselves to see all the information before making a decision.”
But some residents in support of Veterans Wayside said they are concerned with the smell of the transfer station, alligators that may live nearby, whether the county could be trusted to do what it promises, and the minuscule size of the park.
Mayor Lerner said she sees no reason for it to be “either/or.” The Village Council has already allocated $100,000 for a dog park in this year’s budget.
In other action, Councilman McDonald stopped a speaker from addressing the council about concerns that have sprouted from the market’s new management.
Lerner invited the new management the Green Market Co-op and vendors to the meeting to mediate concerns that have resulted from new rules including mandatory insurance and booth payments in advance.
But the farmers market was not on the agenda, and since it was nearing midnight, McDonald motioned that all concerns be directed to the Village Manager after the meeting. Vice Mayor Jeff Cutler and Councilmen Joseph Corradino and Ross agreed to pass the motion. Lerner dissented.
Angry after waiting three hours to speak, vendors and residents released loud sighs and slammed the doors behind them. One man scolded McDonald as he stomped out of the room. The police escorted them outside the building and locked the doors.
“This is about rules,” said Corradino. “Let the manager manage, and let’s move on.”
But Mayor Lerner said she wants the co-op’s contract terminated if the vendors are not happy, which is why the village replaced the prior management.
“We expected that the disharmony between the management and the vendors would go away,” said Lerner. “What’s the difference if we aren’t getting what we expected? We can’t go down this road again.”
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Pinecrest village officials and dog-park advocates knew that the Miami-Dade parks department was coming to the Oct.8 Village Council meeting to discuss a possible dog park at Chapman Field Park. Also, a previous version of this article gave the wrong location for the park, which is at Southwest 136th Street and Old Cutler Road.