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    Local Columns
    Monday, March 27, 2023

    Rob Simmons: Dog park warrior

    The house owned by Frank Mastrapasqua and Laura Ann Gabrysch, who are suing the town, is at the northern edge of the dog park. (David Collins/The Day)
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    I have two words for the committee waging a defense in the Stonington borough dog park war: White pines.

    White pines, in fact, may not exactly be a white flag, but they are in the nature of compromise.

    For a little history here, this is a war begun by some folks with turbocharged careers, an investment banking economist and a tax lawyer from Nashville, Tenn., who bought a vacation home here in 2014.

    They paid $900,000 — a bargain, given that it is directly on Stonington Harbor.

    Regrettably, it is also next to the town's sewage treatment plant and some open lawn area held in reserve in the event the sewage plant must be expanded someday.

    You couldn't have paid almost a million dollars for that house and not known it is next to land that has been used for years as a dog park. Even if you had gone during one of the rare times when there were no dogs, you couldn't have missed the plastic bags and signs for dog waste.

    Indeed, Frank Mastrapasqua and Laura Ann Gabrysch, who are now suing the town for what they call, essentially, an illegal dog park, admit they sent their Realtor to Town Hall to ask about the vacant property before they bought the house. Buyer beware.

    Of course the rest of the story has become town lore, another example of people buying into the quirky and charming little village and trying to change exactly what makes it so appealing, objecting to church bells, the smell of seaweed and the sound of trucks at the fish docks.

    What I find especially offensive is the couple's attacks on town leaders — three different first selectmen, in fact — calling them all liars.

    I was especially offended by an op-ed piece by Mastrapasqua in The Day last week in which he referred to the "despicable behavior" of residents on the committee tasked with establishing formal rules for a dog park, a committee formed in response to his own lawsuit against the town.

    He also repeated an allegation that I find very hard to believe, that users of the dog park throw dog feces at the neighbors. Really?

    I also am insulted Mastrapasqua has chosen to call the duly elected first selectman of the town, who represented this region in the U.S. Congress for three terms, a liar. His tirade concludes with smears about "broken promises, abuse of power and political games."

    Get a grip, or stay in Nashville is some advice that comes to mind.

    After all, Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons has honorably done more than needed to try to accommodate this squeaky wheel, putting into play a public process that will end with a vote by the duly elected Board of Selectmen of the town. It's a fair, open, democratic and legal process, the way we like to do things here in New England.

    As for those white pines, I say buy a truckload of the evergreens, robust and fully grown, and plant them along the borders of the dog park.

    I know this would block south light and a lot of water views for the dog park objectors.

    But it would go a long way to accommodating their complaints, putting a big and tall bushy green border between the people from Nashville and the public space that has been enjoyed for years by the people of Stonington and their dogs.

    Putting up a big tall hedge, it strikes me, is also a lot more neighborly than filing a lawsuit.

    I'm pretty sure, too, that you would not have to spend a dime of taxpayer money to do it.

    Pass a hat, and I can guarantee it would fill up quickly.

    I would be happy to make the first pledge here.

    This is the opinion of David Collins.


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