Neighbors Voice Strong Concerns about Parking, Traffic at Proposed Glenville Dog Park

The Board of Selectmen had a second read on a proposed $30,000 Pledge from Adam Jacobson of Pet Pantry Warehouse to go toward a dog park in Glenville.

The proposed area for the dog park is already enclosed on three sides with chain link fence and neighbors run their dogs there already.

Existing signage about leash and clean up law beside mutt mitts dispenser at the area proposed for a community dog park in Glenville. May 24, 2023 Photo: Leslie Yager
View of possible dog park location on plateau behind Western Greenwich Civic Center. May 24, 2023 Photo: Leslie Yager

The proposal is to enclose the area with a picket fence and obscure the existing chain link fence with landscaping.

It would be upgraded with a watering station, benches, and a fire hydrant in the middle.

According to the meeting materials, the donor requests signage indicating the park be named “Pet Pantry Community Dog Park” and include the company logo.

The naming rights would be for 10 years.

The proposal had a first read at the previous meeting two weeks ago on May 25.

(Dog Park Proposed on Plateau behind Western Greenwich Civic Center: $30K Pledged by Pet Pantry for a Public-Private Partnership, May 25, 2023)

On Thursday, First Selectman Fred Camillo said while feedback had been supportive, there were some concerns that echoed those of the proposed Grass Island dog park in 2000.

“Glenville especially had a concern about parking. Certainly there’s not going to be any more parking added. “As a dog lover, I probably won’t visit it because it’s a neighborhood dog park.”

Camillo said one friend from Glenville had expressed concern that people outside the neighborhood and across the border in New York might inundate the park.

“I responded that Port Chester has a very nice dog park. It’s big,” Camillo said. “I don’t think they’re going to leave one neighborhood to come to another one. This is more for the people on the western side of town.”

He noted that the area was already used by the neighbors as a de facto dog park.

“No traffic will be added,” Camillo continued, adding that he didn’t think it would become a destination.

“We want to make sure that Hawthorne (Street North) only has a few spaces there. We’ll work with Greenwich Police and Dept of Public Works to make sure that’s not abused,” he said.

Selectwoman Lauren Rabin and Selectperson Janet Stone McGuigan said they were still seeking details, in particular a rendering and information about fencing, benches and signage.

Rabin said there was parking on both sides of the civic center, as well the lot across Pemberwick Rd by the American Legion building.

Ms Stone McGuigan said she was not prepared to vote.

“And spoiler alert, I think when we do vote I will be abstaining because as you say, this is a neighborhood dog park. This is not like Grass Island where the community comes from outside. Symbolically, given that this will be going to the RTM, I would want to give my vote to District 9 (Glenville). That is the constituency that would have the greatest interest in this matter.”

Camillo said he was a strong supporter of the project.

“The details have to be worked out anyway. Nothing is being added there. It’s being beautified, enhanced, and for safety reasons,” Camillo said. “There’s not really much on the outside that’s going to be added.”

He said by the time the proposal went before the RTM, likely in September, the details will have been worked out.

“I don’t see any reason to delay this. I’m ready to vote,” Camillo said.

Public Comment

Joanna Podewils, who lives by Grey Rock and Hawthorne Street North, described herself as a dog owner, parent of a toddler and both a runner and walker. She said her biggest concern was parking on the residential side streets.

“I find it offensive to say to park at the civic center,” she said. “We know people will not just park there. They’re are not willing to walk that far. They’re going to want to park on Hawthorne Street North.”

She said that just one car parked on Hawthorne Street North created a challenge for pedestrians.

“I don’t think you’re looking at it overall holistically,”Podewils said. “Also a lot of us neighbors who live on Grey Rock, Hawthorne Street, and Greenway were never informed of this proposal. I only recently found out about if because of Greenwich Connections (Facebook). I think your communicating of it to the neighborhood has been lackluster.”

Camillo pushed back. “We’ve put this out there for more than several weeks. It’s been in the papers. I’ve talked about it on the radio show. We try to put it out on social media as much as we can.”

“As far as parking on Hawthorne. Having grown up there too and been to that neighborhood my whole life, going there, people park there all the time,” Camillo continued. “It is pretty tight there, so I definitely want that to be looked at and probably shorten it up a little bit.”

“We have had this out there for probably a few months now, in many different venues,” Camillo added.

Ms Podewils brought up the death of a pedestrian hit by a car on Weaver Street in March.

“I think the priority should be the safety of people, and putting more sidewalks in the neighborhood. That should be the priority, not this dog park,” Podewils added.

Camillo said the pedestrian who was struck and killed was caused by a medical episode. “The sidewalk had nothing to do with that,” he said.

Greg Solomon, a neighbor in the area of Grey Rock and Greenway, also a dog owner, had only learned of the proposed dog park just prior to the meeting.

“I want to speak for people in the neighborhood who do own dogs, you wouldn’t get the same reaction,” Solomon said. “I don’t think there’s any room here for more traffic or more parking. There’s plenty of kids playing on the street and I think having an official dog park will draw people to the area. There’s just no room to park. There’s no room for more traffic.”

“The dog owners here that live right nearby are doing just fine without an official dog park,” Solomon added.

Constance Oehmler, who is also a neighbor close to the proposed dog park, asked about zoning regulations.

“I’m relatively new to Greenwich. I’ve only been here just under three years,” she said. “I know for Abendroth (dog park) in Port Chester, they had to make sure it was at least 100 yards away from the closest house.”

“You have to realize you will lower the value of all of our houses,” she added.

“Why are you in such a hurry to do this?” she asked Mr. Camillo. “You can clearly see that the constituency that it most effects – whether or not we were sleeping at the wheel – don’t know. I believe that the constituency it affects should be spoken to so you can really get a feel for just how vehemently opposed everybody is.”

Mr. Camillo disagreed. “Everybody is not vehemently opposed. That’s not true.”

Second, he said, “I’m not in a rush to do this. We do second reads and we’ve been talking about this for months.”

“Number three, you brought up something we heard back in 2000 when we first proposed a dog park in Grass Island. People said our home values are going to increase. There will be attacks by dogs on innocent people walking. Kids will be afraid to walk home from school. We finally got the dog park in 2005 and none of those things happened. All your concerns are well taken, but we’ve heard that before…”

Also, Camillo said, “We went to zoning. Zoning is looking at it. Because there’s not a substantial change to the park, right now P&Z said they don’t think there is any need for their involvement, but we’re happy to bring the Port Chester ordinance up to them later today.”

Timothy Horan, another neighbor, questioned Mr. Camillo’s comment about visiting the dog park himself.

“You said something in the beginning that was particularly concerning to me, which was, ‘I probably won’t ever visit it.'”

“I said I won’t take my dogs there because I go other places with them, and I walk in other preserves. I visit all the dog parks, and all the dog parks all the time,” Camillo replied.

“I’d also like to know how you conceptualize the downside risks? What could go wrong? What are the risks that this presents?” Horan asked.

Camillo said the proposal would go before the town’s risk manager, Megan Damato.

“She makes sure we keep out of trouble. We make sure we look we look at every possibility that could go wrong, even if it’s far fetched,” Camillo said.

“I’m sorry that four people came on today and said they didn’t hear about it, but I don’t know how much more transparent we can be,” Camillo added.

Selectwoman Rabin offered to walk the perimeter of the park and visit all the adjacent neighbors and get their feedback.

“I’m not changing positions on this,” Camillo said. “I’ve heard this before in Greenwich when we did the first dog park. They delayed it five years when other towns had parks for decades before that. I’m really concerned – I don’t want it to be pushed off and pushed off with things about decreases of home values and dog running wild and attacking when we know that just doesn’t happen.”

Camillo said he was willing to delay the vote for two more weeks.

Mike Monaco, a neighbor who lives directly across the street from the proposed dog park, said he agreed with the concerns voiced by the other neighbors.

“There has not been one flyer put up in our neighborhood,” he said. “We’re doing just fine without an official dog park. We would have appreciated a bit more of an update …We would love to see some plans of what this actually entails before we can give full support for this.”

The Selectmen did not take a vote.