Mt. Lebanon ordinance change will allow dogs at park

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Mt. Lebanon commissioners plan to allow dog walking in Twin Hills Trails Park as soon as possible. Solicitor Philip Weis will draft an ordinance to include Twin Hills, which borders Scott, among municipal parks where dogs are welcome.

A no-dogs sign recently was placed at the Twin Hills Drive entrance to the park as part of an effort to provide consistency in applying ordinances.

A 1971 measure bans dogs from all parks except Bird and Robb Hollow. When the property of Twin Hills was purchased in 1995, no effort was made to include it among those allowing dogs.

"Residents have been walking their dogs in Twin Hills for years," said Commissioner John Bendel Tuesday. He represents the district in which the park is located,.

Residents weren't the only ones who were unaware of the park's restrictions. At one point, the municipality set up a station providing refuse bags for pet waste.

"I don't want to pretend there wasn't an oversight," said Commissioner Kristen Linfante, "We are not trying to make life difficult for anyone."

Several residents who live near the park attended Tuesday's meeting to ask commissioners to allow dogs. Kenneth Nowacki of Arden Road, a 47-year Mt. Lebanon resident, spoke in support of pet owners.

"Every one of them are true stewards of the park," he said, noting that those who use it regularly pick up litter and keep paths clear. "I'm very adamant about having that open for the dogs."

Kerry Descalzi of North Meadowcroft Avenue said she has walked dogs at the park for 11 years without realizing it is prohibited.

"We're all pretty shocked," she said about the sign at the park's entrance. "Dog walkers are the ones who make that a safe place by being there and giving skeptical looks to people who look like they're up to no good."

"We are looking to fix this problem and address this as soon as we can, but we do have procedures in place," she said. "We have to do it in a manner that's responsible," Ms. Linfante said.

Usually, commissioners hold a public hearing on an ordinance before waiting until their next meeting to vote on it. By special procedure, a vote can be taken at the same meeting as the hearing, which is expected to occur April 22.

In such a case, four votes are needed to adopt the ordinance, instead of a simple majority of three. On Tuesday, all four commissioners present said they favor making the change at Twin Hills.

Some residents questioned the two-week delay until the vote. Police Chief Coleman McDonough said his department has no plans to crack down on dog in the park between now and then.

In the 42-year-old ordinance restricting dogs, Bird and Robb Hollow parks are exempt because of their status as largely undeveloped, "passive" parks. Twin Hills also fits that description.

"We recognize that. We will try to get it resolved and appreciate your patience in the meantime," Ms. Linfante told the audience.

Commissioners also expressed interest in assessing all municipal parks for their suitability to allow dogs.

"It's going to be a hard call because it's not going to be consistent," Commissioner Kelly Fraasch said. "We got green space where we could and developed it differently depending on where it was."


Harry Funk, freelance writer:


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