The great dogs-on-the-beach debate has been unleashed once again at Longboat Key Town Hall.
Four commissioners gave consent to move a report by the LBK-9 Coalition, a citizens group that formed late last year to gather information about allowing dogs on the beach, forward for discussion at a future workshop during the commission’s Dec. 3 regular meeting.
“It’s not a blueprint for a dog beach, and it’s not a specific path to a dog beach, but we felt there was enough information there to bring it back to you,” Committee Chairwoman Laurin Goldner told the commission during Monday’s meeting.
Mayor Jim Brown said he asked Goldner to present the committee’s report during the public comments portion of the Dec. 3 meeting rather than listing the item on the agenda.
“Until we had the opportunity to sort of get our arms around what the committee had done, I didn’t want people just showing up as can often happen when you advertise something,” Brown said at the meeting.
In other words, people often interpret it as a command: “Speak.”
Or at least they did Oct. 20, 2011, when the commission discussed the idea at workshop.
A standing-room-only crowd filled commission chambers during that meeting.
From opponents, commissioners heard tales of contracting tapeworm and turtle impacts. Supporters spoke
of the sadness they felt at having to look at their dogs and tell them they couldn’t go to the beach and cited research about the psychological benefits of dogs.
The commission opted to form a committee to explore practical issues of allowing dogs on the beach but later decided against any commission involvement, making the group a citizens committee.
Brown emphasized what he was seeking at Monday’s meeting:
“The question tonight is, do we want to move this to a public workshop and then we’ll have that scheduled?” he said.
But after four commissioners agreed to move the report forward, Richard Perlman, who served on the LBK-9 Coalition, spoke against the decision. He said that only five of seven members attended the committee’s last meeting and that he and fellow member Cyndi Seamon, who, like Perlman, opposes dogs on the beach, didn’t agree with moving the report forward.
“The paper that you have, with all due respect to Laurin, is the opinion of three out of five people,” he said.
Perlman told the Longboat Observer that he believed the report left out important environmental issues. He also described moving forward the dogs-on-the-beach discussion as “premature.”
“That’s a time-consuming event when we have what I think are more important issues,” Perlman said.
Goldner told the Longboat Observer that all seven committee members planned to attend the most recent meeting, but two didn’t attend for unknown reasons.
The group’s mission was to “have enough positive information to bring back to the commission to have a dog beach on Longboat Key,” while also considering opposing positions, Goldner said.
“Our goal was to look at those opinions and see if there was actually a middle ground and a commonsense approach that would allow us in the end to recommend a dog beach,” she said.
Expect to hear lots of back-and-forth barking at Town Hall between now and February — the month Brown said the commission would likely discuss the issue at workshop.