Get Out The Leash, Dog Lovers

Rover no longer free to roam on village beaches
Rover no longer free to roam on village beaches Morgan McGivern

    Starting July 1 all dogs on East Hampton Village beaches will have to be kept on leashes while they are within 300 feet of parking lots and road ends.
    In a unanimous vote Friday, the East Hampton Village Board approved the controversial change to its existing regulations. Previously, dogs could run at will during the hours that they were allowed on the ocean beaches: before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. in the summer months.
    The rule will be in effect through Sept. 30 and thereafter from the second Sunday in May through September. Markers will be placed delineating the points at which dogs can be without a leash.
    The measure follows months of debate and often-acrimonious comment from village and town residents regarding dog owners’ rights and from those who have complained about dog waste and aggressive encounters.
    Matthew Norklun, a resident of the village, made numerous appearances before the board to complain about dog waste on the beaches and assert that aggressive dogs had attacked him. Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. also cited complaints made by those whose sunset picnics and other gatherings were interrupted by dogs.
    Dozens of dog owners spoke at village meetings, promising greater self-enforcement and public education efforts to maintain waste-free beaches and control over pets. Representatives of the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons and a group called beachdogs11937 had implored the board to abandon or delay added restrictions, some asking for time to implement their own public-education efforts. Steven Gaines, an author and resident of Wainscott, established an advocacy group called Citizens for Responsible Dog Ownership in response to the village’s proposals.
    The board had considered a number of restrictions, including requiring that dogs be leashed within 500 feet of road ends, extending the prohibition on dogs to later in the evening, and banning dogs from certain beaches altogether.
    At a hearing on April 19, some residents objected to the proposed 500-foot regulation, citing health problems that made walking such a distance difficult or impossible.
    Mayor Rickenbach read a statement at the conclusion of Friday’s meeting. “Today your board of trustees took legislative action on an amendment to our code relating to restraining dogs on village beaches. We believe our action strikes a legitimate balance between the safety and interests of beachgoers and dog owners alike who want to enjoy the same beautiful amenities our beachfronts offer,” he said.
    “This adoption of this code amendment has been achieved after much thoughtful debate and public discussion for which we are grateful,” the mayor said. Looking up from his prepared text, he said that the board encouraged cooperation and participation from all interested parties, and asked if any members of the public cared to comment. None of the small number of attendees took that opportunity.
    The board also held a public hearing on a zoning code amendment aimed at reining in a trend toward building larger garages, noting their potential use as habitable space. Having adopted a series of amendments revising the height of single-family dwellings to reduce the mass of the upper third of buildings, the board is now looking to address accessory buildings.
    The latest amendment would prohibit a toilet, shower, or bathtub inside a garage on any level. Habitable space or plumbing of any kind would be prohibited on the second floor over a garage. It would also impose height limitations to such structures: no accessory building could exceed 14 feet in height except a garage, which would be subject to limitations ranging from 14 to 20 feet based on the size of the lot on which it sits.
    The board also set June 6 for a public hearing on its proposed $19.6 million 2013-14 budget, a preliminary version of which it had introduced at its May 2 work session.