Warrant amended: No leashes for dogs on beaches

Day, night hours adjusted; Mills claims Selectmen were misled

Jack Driscoll

A modified leash law proposal for dogs on Rye beaches quickly went up in smoke Saturday, Jan. 31.

Dog owners turned out in substantial enough numbers at the annual Deliberative Session to substitute their own non-leash wording and overturn an ordinance that would have required leashes from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. during summer months. The turn of events prompted Selectman Joe Mills to suggest the Rye Board had been duped.

The amended version will be on the March 10 ballot. It will allow unleashed dogs on the beaches after 7 p.m. a concession by dog owners of an hour and from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m in the morning an additional hour beyond what is presently allowed. Thus dogs would be restricted from being on the beaches between the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the period from the Saturday before Memorial Day to the Saturday after Labor Day. In the off-season dogs and horses are allowed on beaches so long as they are under the control of their owners or custodians.

About 150 townspeople, compared with 60 last year, attended the nearly 2 1/2-hour session at Rye Junior High School.

Following the raised-hand vote, which carried by about an 8 to 1 margin, Selectman Mills, clearly irritated, said he thought the original warrant article proposed by the Board of Selectmen had been "agreed to" by ROMP, the Rye Organization Monitoring Pets, which is a non-profit group that has been trying to protect owners' rights through education efforts and working with law enforcement officials. Mills said "the head of ROMP", later identified as Sally King, had agreed to the nighttime (6 to 8 p.m.) leash plan in talks with then Town Administrator Alan Gould, who left the position five months ago. Plans to put together a committee to study the dog issue had been shelved as a result, said Mills.


ARTICLE 15.    To see if the Town will vote to amend Section 11 of
Ordinance #1, the Beach Ordinance, and rescind Ordinance #23, the Animal Beach Use and Waste Removal Ordinance, in its entirety as follows:

11. (a) Dogs are not permitted on Town Beaches before 7:00 p.m. or after 9:00 a.m., from the Saturday before Memorial Day to the first Saturday after Labor Day. The only exception will be the area between Wallis Sands State Park and Odiorne State Park where dogs and people are allowed between the hours of 6:00 a.m.  and 12 midnight.

During this part of the year:

1. All dogs shall be otherwise under the control of their owner or other

2. The owner or custodian of any dog that defecates on Town of Rye beaches shall immediately remove such defecation from public property and dispose of it on their own property or otherwise properly dispose of same.

A series of public meetings the past few months resulted in the Selectmen unanimously putting forth what it had considered to be a compromise plan, requiring leashes during evening hours (6 to 8 p.m.) but extending the morning unleashed period by one hour, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. The fine for violation of the ordinance, which also pertains to the owner or custodian removing dog defecation, was kept at $50.

Mills' post-vote comments were answered by Don Perrault, who had introduced the non-leash amendment on behalf of himself and ROMP. Addressing Mills, he said, "We don't speak with one voice," adding that town officials had worked cooperatively with the dog group, and, "if you thought you were misled, we apologize." He said the amendment he had put forward earlier in the meeting had grown out of a ROMP meeting, which was held the previous Monday. He emphasized that the owners take their dogs to the beach to exercise, not to walk them, which they can do elsewhere in town.

After the meeting Gould said he wanted to address the issue at the microphone, but the vote had  been taken, precluding further comment. However, he said he had had many discussions last summer with Sally King, and "I was the one who felt we needed some sort of leash law." He said she understood that leashes might be required in some way, but that it was more in the way of discussion than agreement.

Also after the meeting in a telephone interview, King said Mills' comments "were not an accurate depiction" of her discussions with Gould. "We had talked on an off over a period of time," she said. Up to and including the public hearing on January 5, she said, "it was clear that people were interested in compromise." She also said ROMP provided the Selectmen with a copy of its amendment several days prior to the Deliberative Session. She added, "I would have gotten up and defended myself if Don (Perrault) hadn't defended us so well."

(Jack Driscoll photo)

With Bob Eaton presiding over his first Deliberative Session as moderator, the other 12 warrant articles were approved unanimously, some prompting discussion and one requiring an amendment. A request for an appropriation of $2500 for the Families First Health and Support Center, a non-profit agency located at the Community Campus in Portsmouth, was reduced to $1000. After the session the Selectmen and Budget Committee each voted to recommend the article at the reduced amount.

A citizens petition calling for the rejection of the No-New-Tax Pledge taken annually by most officeholders and office seekers created a mild disagreement between Board of Selectmen Chairman Craig Musselman and the resolution's spokesman, Randy Crapo. The non-binding petition, also being offered in other New Hampshire cities and towns, is aimed at promoting open discussion of the taxation issue, according to Crapo, and does not advocate one form of taxes or a combination. But Musselman said there is a concern that the resolution "will be construed as a gambling proposition." Crapo responded that with the Pledge, "perhaps gambling would be the only option."

The petition, which will be Article 14 on the March 10 ballot, calls for a resolution to be forwarded to state officials stating that the property tax has become unjust and unfair and that "state leaders who take a pledge for no new taxes perpetuate higher and higher taxes." It therefore calls on state officials to reject "The Pledge for "open  discussion covering all options" and to "adopt a revenue system that lowers property taxes."

Moderator Eaton also read off the names of candidates who filed for office prior to the previous day's deadline:

FOR BOARD OF SELECTMEN Craig Musselman*, 3-year term (unopposed).

FOR TOWN CLERK/TAX COLLECTOR Beth Yeaton, filling vacancy, 3-year term (unopposed).

FOR PLANNING BOARD (Two seats open) William Zechel, Patricia Weathersby, Don Cavallaro*, 3-year terms.

FOR BUDGET COMMITTEE (One 2-year seat open; two 3-year seats open) Edward Ned Paul III*, 2-year term (unopposed); Raymond Jarvis*, Douglas Abrams*, 3-year terms (unopposed).

FOR TRUSTEE OF TRUST FUNDS Kerry Pope*, 3-year term. (unopposed).

FOR CEMETERY TRUSTEE (Two seats open) Kenneth Moynahan, Robert "Mike" Sargent Sr., 3-year terms.

FOR LIBRARY TRUSTEE (Two seats open) Karen Oliver, L. Gary Layman, 3-year term. (unopposed).

FOR TREASURER Leon Blaisdell*, 3-year term (unopposed).

FOR SEWER COMMISSIONER Peter Kasnet*, 3-year term (unopposed).

FOR SCHOOL MODERATOR Gary Holmes*, 3-year term (unopposed).

FOR SCHOOL CONMITTEE--Peggy Balboni, 3-year term (unopposed).

FOR SCHOOL DISTRICT CLERK empty, 3-year term

* Denotes incumbent.

February, 2009