The Conservation Commission gave a favorable recommendation to building a dog park at the Gurski property on Obtuse Hill Road by a vote of four to one with the stipulation that the use be approved by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism (CCT), which is assisting with funding for the Gurski Homestead and Barn.
The Conservation Commission voted in favor of the location despite the disapproval of the Gurski Homestead Commission, which voted on a resolution May 2 that stated, “[The Commission] does not approve of the location of the proposed dog park.”
“I have nothing against a dog park, it’s strictly location,” explained Liz DeLambert, the sole member of the Gurski Commission who chose to speak at the Conservation meeting.
The problem with the location, according to the Gurski Commission, “Is our mission — attend to the Gurski part of the farm,” DeLambert said. “This seems far from that mission that we’re responsible for upholding.”
DeLambert also pointed to potential issues with parking and the nearby community gardens, managed by the Lion’s Club.
“When we have six people there at the garden, the whole parking area is full,” she said. “I was just totally amazed that you would pick that area to put a dog park on. In that respect, our commission did totally reject the proposal.”
Conservation Commission Chairman Alice Dew, who is also the town’s zoning enforcement officer, looked into that use on the Gurski property and “discovered that the Gurski Homestead Commission has gotten a grant and signed an easement agreement with the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism,” she said. “After reading this grant it came to my attention that anything that gets done has to go through them.”
Dew asked that if the Commission did vote that evening, the stipulation be added that it be approved by CCT.
After Keith Wolff and Gwendolyn Peterson — — presented the plans [attached] to the Conservation Commission, resident Veronica Erdmann offered a number of “points of argument.”
“I don’t see this group as a social organization that benefits the populous at large,” she said. “As a non-dog-owner, what does this park do for me?”
“I would say that the Lion’s are a social organization that the garden benefits more than the gardeners,” Erdmann contended, as the food grown in certain beds is donated to the local food pantry.
Erdmann also took issue with the proximity of the park from the parking lot, which is 300 feet, and the potential for soil contamination from fecal matter and urine.
“I know there’s dogs on the property now,” she said, “Increased usage would be my concern. Users would allow their dogs to urinate and defecate along that enticing tree border — there’s no way to control that, I understand that, but it’s the increased usage that would cause hygiene problems.”
Erdmann also wanted to know whether out-of-town dogs would be allowed to use the park.
Wolff wasn’t sure how that would be policed, however Peterson suggested that passes could be sold when people register their dogs with the town as a way to both ensure that the users live in Brookfield and that the dogs are vaccinated and registered.
Erdmann suggested that “a nominal fee” could be charged to handle future expenses, such as trash pick-up, but reiterated that she was “generally opposed to the location.”
“It’s not the concept, it’s the location,” Conservation member Mike Murphy asserted, the lone dissenting voter on the motion, who stated earlier in the meeting that he thought “the concept of this dog park is a tremendous idea — whether it’s at this location or another location in town, don’t give up. I like everything about it.”
With the approval of the Conservation Commission, Wolff and Peterson now have to take the proposal before the Planning Commission for a referral (a non-binding recommendation) and the Zoning Commission to ensure it meets the zoning code. If the application moves swiftly through the process, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) could vote on the proposal as early as August.
“I’m certainly in favor of establishing a dog park in Brookfield,” First Selectman Bill Davidson said. “It’s a small but important community amenity.”
However, “some questions have been raised about the Gurski site, whether that’s the best location,” he said, though the question of whether the site can even be used has yet to be settled.
“A definite no sometimes saves a lot of conversation,” he admitted, though if the CCT rules that the park is a permissible use, he said he would vote in favor of the site.
“If it passes the test of the state and the Conservation Commission, I will not second guess whether it is an appropriate use of the land,” he said.
As for the remaining questions raised, “We’ll look at those practical issues being raised,” such as parking and the nearby gardens, though Davidson said he has “confidence that the dog park will be well managed by the volunteers. It is self-sustaining, it is self-governing.”
After the Conservation Commission meeting, Wolff was confident that they would be able to get through the next steps in the process smoothly.
“Once we start to develop the final plan — especially the parking lot, that has to get buttoned up — we’ll put a full committee together” and begin fundraising and organizing donations and volunteers, he said. “I’m in sales, I’ll be relentless.”