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Mt. Lebanon dog park measure fails

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mt. Lebanon commissioners tried to throw dog owners a bone with a proposal to allow leashed dogs in a municipal park when children aren't likely to be there, but failed to gather enough votes Tuesday night for approval.

In response to residents' requests to relax the prohibition on pets in Williamsburg Park off Sleepy Hollow Road, Commissioner Dave Brumfield proposed a 90-day pilot program allowing leashed dogs to be walked in certain areas of the park before 9 a.m. and after dark.

But the measure failed in a 2-2 vote, with Brumfield and Kelly Fraasch in favor, Kristin Linfante and John Bendel against, and commission President Matt Kluck absent. In the event of a tie vote, any legislation is considered rejected.

“If we go this way, Williamsburg Park is the tip of the iceberg, and every meeting we're going to be talking about the next park,” said Linfante, who said dog walkers are permitted in the municipality's wooded “passive parks” — Twin Hills Park, McNeilly Park and parts of Bird Park.

Brumfield said he was trying to strike a compromise between residents who wanted to use their neighborhood park to walk their dogs, and those who worried that allowing dogs in proximity to children playing would increase the likelihood of bites, or kids being exposed to waste left behind by irresponsible pet owners.

“Using (the park) with your dog, using the park with your child — those are both perfectly legitimate uses of public space,” Brumfield said.

He noted that the question has been before the parks advisory board three times during the last nine months. The board first recommended relaxing the rules, rescinded that recommendation after hearing from neighbors opposed to the pilot program, then recommended it again after more consideration.

Brumfield's original proposal was more restrictive, with only Ward 4 residents being allowed to purchase a special license or permit from the municipality that they'd have to display on their dog's leash or collar when walking in Williamsburg Park. The permit idea was dropped this week when he and Fraasch discussed the time restrictions as an alternative.

The commission and residents noted how the issue divided the neighborhood around the park, and each side presented petitions to the commission Tuesday.

Dogs and kids often mix, resident Dina Torek said.

“There are dogs on Washington Road and there are kids on Washington Road; the dogs are leashed and the kids are fine,” she said. “The park is not reserved for children, it's for all of us.”

Bridgewater Drive resident Bruce Parry disagreed.

“We don't let (dogs) in the schools, we don't let them on the athletic fields, and now we've suddenly gotten the idea that Williamsburg Park is so different,” he said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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