Council tackles leash laws, Owens seated
Strong words from a Truckee resident and a spirited exchange between councilmembers Maia Schneider and Josh Susman served as lively bookends for an otherwise uneventful Town Council meeting last Thursday.
A serious tone was set as the meeting commenced when Truckee resident Steve Harris used the public comment period to express his displeasure about the Council’s appointment of Ted Owens. The Council voted 4-0 on June 14 to appoint Owens to the seat vacated by Bob Drake. Drake stepped down last month.
Harris expressed concern about Owens’ tenure as president of the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe and said he fears Owens will cater to the construction and development industries.
Owens said last week in an interview with the Sierra Sun that he felt his record on the Planning Commission was balanced and that the key to managing growth “is deciding what goes where, and why.”
Owens added that his residency in Truckee creates a personal, vested interest in seeing Truckee grow responsibly.
Harris said his concern over growth in Truckee “is shared by many. Most of us, that I know, don’t want this growth.”
“We are all concerned about growth,” said Mayor Don McCormack.
Harris then reminded all of the Council that “there is such a thing as a recall.”
Ironically, immediately after Harris’s comments, Owens was officially sworn in as a councilmember.
The recall process allows registered voters a chance to call a special referendum on elected official if they can gather the required number of signatures of registered voters in a specified period of time.
For an area like Truckee, with a registered voting population of between 1,000 to 10,000 voters, proponents of a recall would need 25 percent of the voting population to sign the petition within 90 days of its filing with the Secretary of State’s office.
Leash law revisited?
The last item on the agenda was a request from the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District that the Town assume enforcement of a TDRPD leash ordinance at Truckee Regional Park.
If adopted, the Town, through Animal Control, would assume enforcement of the ordinance and issue citations.
During last Thursday’s Council meeting it was unclear whether the request came from the Board of Directors of TDRPD or from the general manager. Councilman Susman wondered aloud if there had been any public comment on the TDRPD ordinance.
On Monday, Steve Randall, general manager of TDRPD, explained the request came from “staff in the field and was approved by the board of directors” and cited his department’s lack of enforcement capability as problematic in enforcing the existing ordinance.
He added that the frequent use and scale of activities in the Regional Park are reasons for the request for added enforcement of the ordinance.
“The reason we are doing this is that the Regional Park has such big activities. Other parks would not have this enforcement,” Randall said.
On Thursday, Mayor Don McCormack was also cautious when approaching the ordinance, commenting he feared the Council might be “sliding down the slippery slope of a Town leash law.”
However, Councilwoman Schneider stated repeatedly, “This just isn’t a big deal. I don’t think it’s leading down the slippery slope I don’t pay my taxes for a dog park, I pay my taxes for a people park.”
“I pay my taxes for a family park,” Councilman Susman shot back.
Following the meeting, Mayor McCormack reiterated his concern that the request will lead to further restrictions.
“I am a little afraid that it is a step in the direction of a leash law,” he said.
Two years ago, after almost two months of heated debate, the Council decided to adopt a “maximum enforcement policy” instead of implementing a leash law.
“Not even Measure M seemed to generate as much emotion as the proposed leash law,” Councilwoman Schneider said on Monday.
The policy has resulted in citations for the owner of any dog witnessed by an Animal Control officer to be in violation of the Town’s laws.
Since the adoption the maximum enforcement, Councilman Susman said citations have gone up and canine complaints down.
Susman characterized the Town’s struggles with a possible leash law as “part of the growing pains we (Truckee) are going through.”
In between the spirited discussion about the proposed enforcement of the TDRPD ordinance and Harris’s reminder of the recall process, Ron Florian was appointed vice-mayor.
Rachelle Pellissier, president of the Chamber of Commerce, wished to thank all the firefighters battling the Martis Fire and Diane McLaughlin was introduced as the new accounting manager.
Town Manager Steven Wright also recommended that the Council incorporate a $1,500 fee increase to retain membership in the League of California Cities, a lobbying group that advocates for cities.
“There’s a lot of things that wouldn’t happen in small cities favor if it weren’t for the League,” Wright told the Council.
The League currently enjoys 100 percent participation of all incorporated cities in California.
Action on incorporating the fee increase was deferred until July 5, as was a proposal from the Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce to the Council regarding funding and staffing of the visitors’ center and promotional services.
A rough outline was also set for the following workshops:
— Town Hall site – August
— Land use development and related issues – September
— Historic preservation – October
— Mill site and railroad issues – November
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