Weston dog park plan draws lawsuit
On May 3, 2018, the Conservation Commission of Weston approved the town’s application to construct a 3.5-acre dog park at Moore Property, a 36-acre town-owned parcel of land. This followed a non-binding vote held by the town in April 2018. By a narrow margin of only 888 to 798, Weston residents voted to approve the idea of building a dog park at the Moore Property.
However, on June 5, 2018, people in opposition to the plan filed to appeal the Conservation Commission’s decision.
The lawsuit claims the application proposed a regulated activity that “involves conduct which has, or which is reasonably likely to have the effect of unreasonably polluting, impairing or destroying the public trust in the air, water, or other natural resources of the state.”
Attorney Steve Nevas, who represents the neighbors opposing the plan, said it was important to note his clients did not oppose a dog park in its entirety.
“They’re far from opposed to a dog park. In fact they think it’s a fine idea,” Nevas said. “It’s just the wrong place because of the characteristics of the property.”
The lawsuit alleges the Conservation Commission failed to provide substantial evidence or any relevant testimony to support its decision.
Maria Proto, founder of Weston Dog Park, said she first appeared before the Board of Selectmen with an idea for a dog park in 2016. Proto, who owns two dogs, said initially she took her pets to local areas such as Winslow Park in Westport.
“Soon I thought why don’t we have a dog park in Weston?” Proto said. “I asked on the local Weston moms Facebook page does anyone think we should have a dog park in Weston.”
Proto said she was inundated with overwhelming support for the idea, adding a dog park could not only be a great area for the dogs, but a natural location for community gathering.
“Weston is a very small town,” she said. “It can be isolating. We don’t have many gathering spots.”
On Aug. 28, the town filed a brief stating the reasons the appeal should be dismissed.
“The commission was entitled to credit the evidence provided by the town’s experts who concluded that the proposed dog park would not adversely affect the wetlands,” the brief reads.
Conservation Planner David Pattee declined comment due to the situation involving pending litigation.
Despite the ongoing case, Weston Dog Park has raised funds to support building the park. Proto said her organization committed to raising $85,000 and exceeded its goal by raising $110,000 in the last eight months. For Proto, the opposition has not deterred her hopes of one day seeing a dog park.
“It’s a small minority, but we have garnered a lot of support,” Proto said. “Right now we’re just waiting for a decision to be made.”