Fees at popular dog park neutered, Winter Park moves to un-neuter
As you may recall, the city of Winter Park’s decision to impose fees at the off-leash area of Fleet Peeples Park on Lake Baldwin set off a slew of drama between barking mad dog owners and a select group of city officials. But for the Friends of Fleet Peeples Park–the nonprofit that originally transformed the park from creeper hangout to a lakeside dog oasis–there weren’t many weapons at their disposal to fight the fees.
Well, as it turns out, they have a big one: the legal technicality.
The city needs to pass an ordinance to legally enforce the fees, so currently, the park is still free–despite the new signage at the park which states “Effective January 1, 2011, a fee-based tag for access to the off-leash area will be required.”
The City Commission will at meet 3:30 this afternoon to vote on the measure. Assuming the ordinance passes, a second reading would most likely take place on Jan. 24, when the city commission meets again. At both meetings, dog owners should be out in force.
“Any time the dog park is on the agenda, there’s always a good amount of people there,” says Winter Park spokeswoman Clarissa Howard.
An apparent boon for fee opponents is that the ordinance has to pass twice to become law–hence the two readings–but if it fails once, it dies. Yet on the other hand, it can easily be brought back from the dead. The city could try to pass it again in its current form after six months, but a more expedient route would be to “modify” the ordinance, then reintroduce it for consideration. Howard reminds the Weekly that passing the (currently unenforceable) fee policy also took several tries, though she neglected to use the term “dogged” when describing the commissioners’ persistence.
As of Jan. 5, 140 dogs have been registered to use the park, according to Howard. She says it’s “hard to speculate” whether the city would offer refunds to the owners of those dogs if the ordinance fails, or what would become of the two part-time park officials hired largely to enforce the fees. The two employees, according to Howard, are handing out written warnings at the park in the meantime, though she neglected to use the term “neutered” when describing the park officers’ sense of authority.