Neighbors Both Have a Dog in the Fight

•City ordinances primary issue buried under resident dispute

Bethany Staiger (L) addresses the New England City Council at their May meeting on Monday, May 1. At the heart of a dispute between neighbors is the overview of New England city laws. (Herald Photo by Cole Benz)

A neighborly feud spilled over from Facebook and into the May city council meeting in New England.

After a complaint was made to the authorities over barking dogs, words were thrown around on social media. And this prompted the individuals to attend the monthly city council meeting to discuss the situation.

“We all know the dangers of social media,” said Marty Ophdal, New England Mayor.

Though emotions ran high, and on the surface the argument may have been about barking dogs and the overall peace of the town; the real, deeper issue at the heart of the problem is city ordinances.

Council member Tom Gorek—along with a former council member has been working for the better part of two years on examining and updating the city’s laws.

How does this relate to the latest incident?

Through the social media posts it was rumored that one of the ordinances was going to include a provision that limited dog ownership to just two animals. Which some residents attending the meeting disagreed with.

“Granted I did put in two dogs,” Gorek said. “That’s my opinion. Four dogs are fine, seven dogs are fine. There’s people in town that have seven dogs. The problem is in talking to the other cities is the excessive barking of a dog.”

Though Gorek said that number was what he had initially started with, he did say that it was just a starting point. And during his research he had reviewed other city’s laws, and found that two was somewhat of a common number. But that sentiment was quickly done away, with many council members saying that it shouldn’t be an issue of number of animals, but should center around noise. If you have 10 dogs and they don’t make a sound, what’s the problem—was the sentiment among some of the members.

“If you want to have a lot of dogs that’s fine with me,” Gorek said. “But there has to be something in there to put a time on the barking so you don’t annoy the peace-loving people of the town.”

There is no limit on dogs at this point in time, added Gorek.

“Just talking with the council members, we’re probably not going to address, now this is just the first draft we haven’t done anything, we’re probably not going to address the number of animals that each person has,” Opdahl said. “But we are definitely going to address the noise ordinance, and that is going to have substantial penalties if you’re in violation of those.”

“The ordinances were outdated, some go back 30 years,” Gorek said. “I’ve been working on them, trying to update them.”

Council member Butch Frank cautioned the audience, saying that this wasn’t a hearing, and that the council is far from being ready to hold a public hearing. Adding that nothing has been passed.

“Nothing has been decided yet on these ordinances,” Frank said.

In order to pass an ordinance, Gorek said, it must first be written down. Then it must be passed by the governing body—in New England’s case, the city council. Following a passage it goes to the mayor to either pass or veto. If it’s vetoed, it can go back to the council for changes but must be passed by a larger majority the next time. The change must be read public, twice. It can be amended after the first reading. If the community is still not satisfied with the new ordinance, the public still has the right to have a referendum with a petition and then the vote goes to the whole city at the next scheduled election.

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