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    Monday, March 27, 2023

    Neighbors sue Stonington over dog park

    Stonington — Two neighbors of the unofficial dog park at the Town Dock have filed a lawsuit against the town and First Selectman George Crouse.

    Laura Ann Gabrysch and Frank Mastrapasqua, who own a neighboring home at 13 Front St. allege that the “illegal dog park” poses a danger to the public, interferes with the “quiet enjoyment” of their property” as well as the right of other residents to use their properties.

    They say the town has not obtained required borough zoning approval for the park, refused to enforce the borough leash law and failed to prevent dog waste from polluting adjacent Stonington Harbor.

    In 2010 or 2011 the lawsuit states the town enclosed the park with a fence and the area became well known as a “town-owned off leash dog park.”

    They said residents abutting or close to the park, even when they are indoors, “are subject to excessive, uncontrolled loud barking, growling and yelping from dogs as well as loud talking and shouting from the dog owners.”

    “In addition, since the plaintiffs are well know to the community as individuals opposed to the continued use of the subject area as an illegal dog park, dog park advocates harass them, yell at them, use overly loud voices, have called police on them and made false claims against them,” wrote the couple’s attorney Michael Bonnano in the lawsuit.

    They allege Crouse promised to create a dog park usage committee to regulate its use but instead delegated the responsibility to the Waterfront Commission. They allege the commission’s chairman, Sandy Grimes, uses the dog park and is a vocal supporter of it.

    “In 2010 the Waterfront Commission decided to encourage the park’s existence “to protect the rights of animals” and to “do everything in their power to preserve the dog park.” The Waterfront Commission on other occasions since has affirmed this use. Complaints by abutting neighbors are regularly dismissed,” states the lawsuit.

    The couple is asking a judge to approve an injunction forcing the town to stop using the property as a dog park, order the town to go through appropriate procedures, “taking all customary precautions related to the construction of a dog park” and obtain zoning and site plan approvals and implement rules to protect the couple and the public if the park is to stay open.

    They are also seeking monetary damages resulting from the decrease in the value of their property if a dog park is sanctioned and built by the town. They also want the town to determine the negative environmental impact of using the land for a dog park.

    Last month the Waterfront Commission approved four rules for the park. They are that dogs should be leashed upon entering and exiting the park, patrons should clean up after their dogs and keep the area clean, should be courteous to everyone and should park in designated areas only.

    The lawsuit notice is the latest development in the long-running dispute between a few neighbors of the dog park and the town.

    In July 2014, police said Gabrysch displayed and turned on a stun device while ordering two children to get their dog off the tiny beach below her seawall.

    Later that day, 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, sickening a dog.

    Police said they admitted to putting the mixture on the rocks.

    No arrests were made in either of the incidents, but police said they issued warnings.


    Twitter: @joewojtas

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