North Bay Village officials have told residents they are exploring options for a dog park, but the village’s dog owners aren’t waiting.
With their dogs, a group of residents gathered Sunday in a grassy area off the Kennedy Causeway, where they hope to set down a park for their pets to run off-leash. The patch is being lent to residents by Scott Greenwald, the developer who owns the property. He said he plans to develop it but that in the meantime — a few months, maybe a year — residents can use it as a dog park.
“When we start construction . . . it’ll be the last area to be touched,” Greenwald told Sunday’s gathering.
Residents are asking the village to help financially — they need dog waste bag dispensers, a fence and benches.
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“We are trying to fund-raise, but we want the city to at least install dispensers,” said Maxine Tayar, a resident and dog owner who has led the efforts for the park. “The land is pristine and beautiful.”
But Village Manager Frank Rollason said the village should proceed with caution.
After Greenwald acquired the property, he wanted to build a strip club as part of a development on the site. The village opposed that, Greenwald sued the village, and both parties then reached an agreement on how the property would be used.
“There was a development agreement for a multi-use residential structure. That does not include a doggie park,” Rollason said. He said that if the village receives a formal proposal from Greenwald, then its lawyers would explore the issue. “If he can legally have that there, God bless him.”
The grassy area is next to the studios of WSVN-Fox 7, and has been a contentious topic over the past few years. Records show the property is the subject of a lawsuit between Greenwald’s company, Isle of Dreams, and Sunbeam Realty, which owns WSVN.
WSVN management did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Sunbeam Realty could not be reached.
Sunday’s gathering came after Miami-Dade school district officials frowned on the informal gathering of dog owners behind Treasure Island Elementary School last month, which residents think is the most feasible area for a dog park. Being in the area without permission could be considered trespassing.
In July, commissioners voted to allow the village manager to seek an agreement with the school district to build the park on a piece of the schoolyard, but a school district representative said in an interview soon afterward that, upon looking into the proposal, district policy does not allow for animals other than service dogs on school grounds — dimming, if not killing, the possibility.
In his proposed budget for the next budget year, Rollason did not allocate any funds for a potential dog park — “not a single thin dime,” he said at the last commission meeting.
“It’s been a long time we’ve been asking for this,” said Mirella Larotonda, who has lived in the village on and off for a decade. “This is a pretty city, and I think we really need a space where dog owners can take the leash off their dogs.”
Tayar said that if the schoolyard isn’t an option, the village should look into other possibilities for a permanent park.
Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez said he asked the village manager to look into temporarily using the land where the new village hall will rise. But the land was given to the village for the specific purpose of constructing a municipal government building, as stated in the property’s deed.
Gonzalez said the village could look into buying property elsewhere.
“I’d like to see a dog park come to fruition,” said Gonzalez, who owns a dog. “People in the village feel strongly about their pets.”
But Commissioner Richard Chervony said the village can’t afford to buy land for a dog park.
Chervony also questioned whether most residents would support the village’s putting money into such a project, which could come at the price of a tax increase. The village’s funds for open-space procurement are low, and property in North Bay Village is expensive.
“Let’s be realistic,” Chervony said. “We have 20 residents here, 15, 20 dogs. Is that representative? No.”
Both Gonzalez and Chervony attended Sunday’s event.
Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman, who represents North Bay Village at County Hall, said she would throw her weight behind the initiative and help the village obtain financial support for a dog park.
“A lot of cities have dog parks now. . . . I think it’s important for the people who have pets to be able to enjoy them in the community,” Heyman said. “But it depends on what the city manager says, and then see what the costs are.”