Pinecrest council members heard a presentation on several possible plans for a dog park in the village Tuesday night, but reached no consensus.
The council and about 60 village residents heard from Chen Moore and Associates, which the village had hired to create conceptual master plans for Veterans Wayside Park.
“There’s lot of information we still need to digest,” said Mayor Cindy Lerner. “We need to look at the cost and figure out what direction to go in.”
They also heard from Miami-Dade parks department representatives, who talked about a new on-leash “dog park” at Chapman Field Park, which for the moment doe not include a fenced-in area in which dogs can run.
The county’s deputy parks director, George Navarrete, said the county will measure usage of the dog park for the next four months to determine whether to improve the site. He said there are seven to eight acres available to expand the park.
Council member Bob Ross raised a question to the parks deputy director: “How do you draw a conclusion from a start point that is not offering what the public has an interest in in the first place?”
Naverrete said the county intends to improve the dog park based on public input and that it could easily be a fenced-in two acres.
According to the Chen Moore study, there is no off-leash dog park within a mile of Pinecrest. Within a five-mile radius, there are two off-leash dog parks. The firm concluded a need for a dog park in the village.
Chen Moore presented its three conceptual plans for Veterans Way and one master plan prepared by a group of residents that advocate for the dog park.
The first plan would create a small-dog area west of the existing parking lot and a large-dog area on the north side of the park, both with additional parking spaces and sidewalks to link them, and both enclosed by six-foot-high fences. This plan would cost the Village $419,133.
The second plan adds improvements to parking and sidewalks. It would also relocate the veterans’ memorial to the southwest area of the park, making it highly visible to Pinecrest Parkway. Chen Moore’s report says the veterans memorial is “understated” by its current location. This plan would cost $1,036,019.
The third plan does not include a dog park and would relocate the veterans’ memorial to the southwest area of the park to make it more visible, and improve the park for general users by adding picnic areas, a pavilion overlooking the lake and a pedestrian bridge across the park’s ravine. This plan would cost $606,832.
The priciest plan was created by a group of residents and adds a “wet dog area” component to Chen Moore’s second plan. This would require fencing around the lake, water quality improvements, add a waterfall feature and cost $1,314,205.
Chen Moore concluded that the park is physically capable of supporting a dog park. The dog areas would occupy about one-third of the 3.25-acre park.
The plans drew strong reaction from dos-park supporters as well as American Legion members, who argued that Veterans Wayside was not an appropriate place for a dog park.
Art Angelica, commander of American Legion post in Coral Gables, said Wayside also is too small for a dog park.
“There’s a lot of discussion and money to be spent on cramping them all there when just down the road there’s seven or eight acres at Chapman,” Angelica said. “All we have to do is show a huge following like we do here. That’s the place for our animals to go.”
Dog-park advocates were skeptical of Chapman, however.
“They’ve given us an on-leash park infested with crocodiles and sand fleas,” said Pinecrest resident Scott Baxter, 58. “It’s not what the village wanted.”
Mayor Lerner said the council will keep the village updated on dog-park related news.
Also on Tuesday, council member Bob Ross proposed a new plan for a 75-seat restaurant at Pinecrest Gardens. The village would spend $800,000 to $1 million to build the restaurant inside Cypress Hall, with the operator investing little or no money.
Ross’s plan also differed from previous proposals in that it did not include a patio addition nor a septic tank expansion. Ross listed advantages: The village would have full control and it would be easier to replace an operator if things didn’t work out, decreasing financial risk.
Ross reviewed his proposal with Bill Hansen of Hansen Catering, who said with the village keeping the business arrangements simple, it would be the ideal situation for a couple that wants to create jobs for themselves. A couple operating the restaurant could gross $500,000-$750,000 a year and the village should expect 10 percent of that.
Lerner was skeptical.
“A mom-and-pop shop is not gonna’ cut it,” Lerner said. “We’re fully investing a million with no rent in return and no guarantee that someone knows what they’re doing or that we’ll make money.”
Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano Gomez advised the council to move forward with its current request for proposals in which the village is willing to invest $500,000 into the build-out of a restaurant. She noted that the village spent at least $40,000 in consultant fees in the last lease agreement.
“We’d be taking a permanent financial risk, and I don’t want to be affiliated with that,” Lerner said.