MORAGA -- A law that would have banned off-leash dogs at Rancho Laguna Park until a fenced area could be built has been tentatively rescinded by town leaders, ensuring off-leash access there for at least another year.
The Town Council voted 3-2 Wednesday to rescind and repeal Ordinance 236, which was passed in May and would have gone into effect June 9. The council will make a second and final vote on the issue July 25.
The move came after a group of residents and others in June delivered a referendum petition to the town asking the law be repealed. The ordinance was then suspended, and morning and afternoon off-leash hours have continued.
The repeal, which was supported by Mayor Mike Metcalf, Councilman Dave Trotter and Vice-Mayor Howard Harpham, also means the town will avoid a ballot measure in November asking residents to decide whether they supported the ordinance, which modified a previous off-leash law and would have only allowed unleashed pets in a future council-approved fenced dog park of no more than three acres at Rancho Laguna. Staffers had estimated the election would have cost the town about $15,000.
Before voting, officials were briefed by Town Manager Jill Keimach on the results of an informal survey asking the public if and how the park should be shared by users.
Keimach said although the community is split on the issue, a majority polled wanted to keep Rancho Laguna as is. They also don't want to spend town
Keimach also agreed with many of the comments made by survey respondent,s and said the community needed to heal and concentrate on fixing roads and repairing potholes. "I'd hate to have a discussion in the community sidetrack the long-term goals," she said.
A frustrated Harpham, who had supported the off-leash ban, said he was voting reluctantly to repeal the law. He alluded to fear of negatively affecting the outcome of the sales tax measure being behind the town's decision to yank the law.
His sentiments echoed those of Councilman Ken Chew, who with Harpham and Councilwoman Karen Mendonca had supported the ordinance's adoption in May.
Chew said allowing voters to decide on the fate of the ordinance was democratic and fair, and that a large portion of residents would feel denied the opportunity to have their say if the measure was not put on the ballot. He also asked his colleagues whether they had future plans for handling the off-leash dog issue; Trotter responded that he would like to see the council address the issue after the November election.
Once the repeal receives final council approval July 25, the town will not be able to pass a similar ordinance until August 2013.