Published July 22. 2014 4:45PM Updated July 23. 2014 12:01AM
Stonington —Borough Warden Jeff Callahan said Tuesday that he is working with town officials to determine who owns the property that is at the center of a dispute between pet owners who use the unofficial dog park behind the borough sewer plant and an adjacent homeowner.
Callahan said he has spoken to the town public works department about what he called the central issue — determining the property line between the sewer plant land and the house at 13 Front St.
If the property line is the home’s wooden fence, Callahan said the route the dogs have been taking down to water would be on land owned by the town. But if the line is the new fence with a gate installed by the town, then the dogs’ route would appear to be on property owned by Laura Ann Gabrysch and Frank Mastrapasqua.
Former Congressman Rob Simmons, whose daughter made one of the complaints Sunday about Gabrysch, said Tuesday that he has researched the deed for 13 Front St. and found that its boundaries are defined by iron pipes and drill holes in the seawall on the property. That would mean the land between the seawall and town fence is public.
As for dogs standing in the shallow water in front of the house, Callahan said that would be in state waters and open to the public. There is also a tiny patch of sand in front of the home that is exposed by the water at times.
On Sunday, police twice responded to the park. The first call came after police say Gabrysch displayed and turned on a stun device while ordering two children to get their dog off the tiny beach below her seawall. The children told their parents, who called police.
On Sunday afternoon, police were back at the park when a resident complained that Gabrysch and Mastrapasqua had placed a mixture of paprika and pet repellent on the rocks that separate the park from Stonington Harbor in an effort to keep the animals out of the water. One dog, whose owner he knows, became ill after eating the material, according to Simmons.
Police said Gabrysch did not threaten the children with the stun device but admitted to putting the mixture on the rocks.
No arrests were made in either of the incidents, but police said they issued warnings and told Gabrysch to talk to town and borough officials about their park concerns. Police also said they informed Gabrysch that state law ensures public access to waters and beaches below the high water mark. The beach area is covered by water most of the day. A sign there reads: “No Trespassing — Violators Will Be Prosecuted.
The couple, who recently moved to the borough from Nashville, Tenn., bought the house at 13 Front St. in April for $900,000.
A few days ago, someone placed a heavy-duty bicycle lock on the gate so it can no longer be opened. Because of the lock, dogs have been climbing up and down the large rocks to the water.
First Selectman Ed Haberek did not respond to questions Tuesday about how the town will address the issue.