A divided Key Biscayne Village Council decided not to back away from plans for a park including a dog run on Crandon Boulevard, despite a petition from residents who don’t want canines at the site near the village’s center.
Close to 800 people signed a petition asking the council to eliminate an area for dogs from plans for a multipurpose park at 530 Crandon Blvd. Under the village charter, this required the council to reconsider an April vote approving the park.
The re-vote came to the same result, however, with council members voting 4-3 to keep the multipurpose park plan, dogs and all. Mayor Frank Caplan and council members Mayra Peña Lindsay and James Taintor dissented.
But the fight is not over. The village charter now requires a referendum on whether to approve or reverse the council’s decision. Village officials said it’s too late to get the item on this November’s referendum, so it may have to wait for November 2016.
Key Biscayne residents are split on what the land should be used for, and members of the petition committee were upset it took so long for the council to consider the proposed law.
Some dog owners want the now-temporary dog park to be left as a single-use, permanent dog park.
Seniors in the community want a senior center or a cultural center to be built on the site.
Ann Taintor, a resident of Key Biscayne and council member Taintor’s wife, addressed the council to say she felt the needs of the community’s seniors were not being adequately considered by some council members.
“We settled for a room in the community center which is shared with other community center events,” she said. They also share a room with the police administration office for their exercise classes. There needs to be more space for seniors, she said.
Members of the petition committee were upset that the council didn’t vote in time to get the question on this year’s ballot.
Mayor Caplan said he tried to call a special meeting during the council’s vacation time to discuss the ordinance, but not enough council members were available to form a quorum before the deadline.
Dr. Jorge Mendia, a former Key Biscayne council member and a member of the petition committee, told the council members they were irresponsible for not acting promptly enough.
Carlos Fernandez, another member of the petition committee, said the committee isn’t against having a dog park in Key Biscayne; they just don’t want it on 530 Crandon.
“I think it’s the worst use for that property, of all the uses it can have,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez said he has no preference for what the land will be used for as long as it is not a dog park.
Caplan expressed concern over not being able to move forward with the council’s plans. If the council continues interviewing consultants and designers for the multipurpose park, which will include a dog park, it may have to eliminate the dog park after spending money to design and build it. The council is now left with weighing the options of moving forward with their plans or waiting two years for residents to vote on the matter.