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Monday, February 19 News

Dogs, horses banned at Metro Center open space under new rules

No one showed up to howl at a Conservation Commission hearing Thursday on proposed rules for the Metro Center open space -- one proviso bans dogs and horses from the property -- as the panel proceeded to adopt the regulations.

The 10-acre open space area abutting the Fairfield Metro train station has been closed until regulations on its use could be approved.

John Fallon, the lawyer who represents Blackrock Realty, the developer of the private sector of the Metro Center property, sent a letter objecting to the ban on dogs, which are allowed on other town open spaces. Otherwise, no one from the public appeared at the hearing to speak either in favor or against the regulations.

The rules were adopted by the commission on a 6-1 vote, with Felicia Watson casting the dissenting vote.

"I do believe leashed dogs should be allowed," Watson said, adding if she lived in the area, she would probably want to walk her dogs through the open space, which includes wooden boardwalks. "I do agree, and understand, an unleashed dog could do damage."

Concerns raised by Conservation Director Thomas Steinke, including the possibility that dogs would dig in the open space and risk breaking through the membrane placed over contaminated soil on the former foundry land, as well as disrupt nesting birds. The rules ban all domesticated animals, and includes horses.

--I get that," commission Vice Chairman Kate Maxham, told Watson about her concerns. "I just think we have so many open spaces where dogs are allowed. This is a very small, unique conservation area."

Another panel member, Sam Boyarsky, said he was worried that if Blackrock Realty receives approval for a proposed apartment building on its share of the property, the open space area could be overrun by apartment dwellers' dogs.

"That's a major concern," said Ed Jones, the Conservation Department's open space manager.

The rules adopted for the Metro Center open space also prohibit swimming in the man-made pond or Ash Creek, and no climbing on fences near the railroad tracks or around United Illuminating catenary infrastructure.

The conservation area is for passive recreation, such as walking, jogging, bicycling, and watching birds and other wildlife.

According to Steinke, the Metro Center open space is expected to reopen to the public once the rules become effective and Blackrock Realty "exerts management responsibilities on the property."