Growling Over Rules May Provoke Barnegat Light to Ditch Dog Park

Also, Homeowners Urged to Find Buried Water Meter Pits
By MARIA SCANDALE | Jun 21, 2017
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Is the future of the dog park in Barnegat Light on a short leash? The mayor at the June borough council meeting tossed out the first indication of doubt about whether it’s worth it to continue offering the play area.

“I’d like to get it on a non-binding referendum. Do we really want to maintain a dog park for the rest of the county?” said Mayor Kirk Larson.

The question arose after some dog owners brought their growls over the new gate key system into borough hall and the park. The background is that after discussing the idea for months last year, council had voted to require a card key to open the gate at the dog park on West 10th Street. A key is free to borough property owners and $30 for out-of-towners, but all must register proof of a current rabies shot and dog license to get one.

Council made the change for health and safety reasons and in order to regulate occasional problems. For instance, an aggressive, biting dog can be banned by de-activating its owner’s card key.

But some dog owners, surprised or disgruntled when they came back for the summer and found the change, registered their complaints in the past month.

“These are the meanest, rudest people” to borough employees, Larson said at the meeting, as they expressed their anger that they “don’t want to pay $30,” or “lost their key and couldn’t get in.”

“We already had to throw a guy out; we deleted his card,” the mayor added, referring to an owner of a dog that bit another. The mayor said the owner replied that his dog “just didn’t like that dog.”

No decision on posing a referendum question was announced at the June 14 monthly council meeting.

After the meeting, Municipal Clerk Brenda Kuhn clarified more about the hubbub that has been unleashed over the gate key system.

“On the whole, we’ve had a lot of difficulties with the people ... who just don’t want to abide by the rules,” the clerk said.

“They are not happy with the new system. They don’t want to have to pay. They want to be able to come and go as they please,” she said.

“But we basically put it in place for safety reasons. Anybody could go in there and their dog may not be vaccinated. Now to get in there they have to show us proof. And a lot of them were not happy – a lot from out of town, some from out of state.”

“They just don’t want to abide by the rules, and it has been causing a lot of problems in the office,” Kuhn said.

“Then we had problems with the card working properly. It has just been a very big headache for the office staff, especially; they have to deal with those who aren’t happy. They have to deal with people who lost their card and demand a new one, and they want it immediately.”

“I don’t know if we’ll get it ironed out. ... It would be nice to have it running a lot smoother than it is.”

“We have residents who love the dog park and residents who hate the dog park,” she added.

Height Change

Tabled for Now

As previewed in last week’s SandPaper, the mayor announced tabling of an ordinance to raise the building height limit from 30 feet to 32 feet.

It had been introduced but did not reach second reading when the majority of public opinion seemed to be against it, most clearly during a poll at the June meeting of the Barnegat Light Taxpayers Association.

“They kind of did not want anything to do with it,” Larson summed up at the council meeting. “It was probably 95 to 5 – against.”

Larson said he should have polled the bayfront homeowners specifically, as that is where almost all of any flooding problems arise. “I may do that in July to see how they feel ... I didn’t want to just throw it out.”

The July taxpayers meeting is scheduled for July 15 at 9:30 a.m. at the first aid squad building on West 10th Street.

Councilman Frank Mikuletzky said one possibility is to re-introduce an ordinance with a higher building allowance that would apply to bayfront areas only. But no further decision was made by council.

Water Meter Pits

Need to Be Uncovered

Locating existing water meter pits is a first step to the water metering that is planned in Barnegat Light (and is already being done in other municipalities) to comply with a mandate regarding water use restrictions of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Borough Council President Michael Spark urged homeowners to try and find their water meter pit in their front lawn. The meter pit “has to be accessible,” he said. “We’re giving you a head start.”

The meter pit is a fiberglass structure with a lid. It will hold a new type of meter that will be read remotely from Stafford Township when metering is implemented in a couple of years. The system will also be designed to detect leaks before they cause major problems.

Meter pits for houses built in about the last five years are expected to be easy to locate. For some older properties, though, the situation is less clear.

“There are about 25 or 30-something meters in this town that we know of that have never been found. And there are also a lot of them that have been landscaped over,” said Spark, councilman who chairs the water and sewer committee.

Recently, a technician and staff from Stafford Township have begun helping borough officials begin to prepare for installation of the new meters.

“He had people over here working, and he had a couple of men over here at his expense walking up and down the street trying to find our meters, and there are a couple problems: they have not been able to find some,” Spark said.

“We’re in a situation as to how do we go about encouraging the public to find their meters – or having a recollection of where to find them – and to go out and make an attempt to try to find them before we have to come in and tear your yard up to find them,” Spark explained.

However, he reminded that the borough owns the right-of-way, even though it may be landscaped over.

“But remember, when we tear your yard up to find it, we’re really not tearing up your property; we’re tearing up our property.

“You may have, as we all do, encroached on the town right-of-way or easement when you did your landscaping, or your bushes, your stone pavers, your railroad ties.”

“So, from the blacktop there may be 10 or 15 feet that still belongs to the borough. ... An easy way is that most houses have been built right up to the front setback – 25 feet from the front of your porch or the front of your house, is really the end of your property,” Spark generalized. “Anything beyond that belongs to us, even though you may have put great expense into landscaping or pavers.

“There have been some, even in the last couple of months, who knowingly even after being told by members of council or the mayor not to do it, and they paved right over their meter pit,” Spark added.

“And so, there are two ways of going about trying to find these things: Either by ordinance, or trying to encourage you people, if you have any recollection as to where it was – especially in the case of the ones who landscaped, hardscaped, extended flower beds or something, right over top of it.”

If homeowners find their meter pit, they can mark it with a stake or some such marker, Spark said. In the next couple of months, borough crews will be moving forward on trying to document the locations of the pits, he said.

Among other announcements, more tram drivers are needed. “If anybody knows anybody who wants to drive the tram, we only have one tram driver,” the mayor said.

Also, an ordinance passed on second reading prohibiting gas-powered generators on construction sites of new homes and major renovations. “People have been building their own houses with a generator running next to their house all year,” the mayor said. “That’s not going to happen.”

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

 

 

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