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March 18. 2013 9:34PM

Bedford dog park advocates trying to find a path forward

BEDFORD - A proponent of the dog park that was cleared for town-owned land off Nashua Road said there's still a chance the facility could be built, despite what he sees as a deliberate effort by some members of the town council to bury the plan.

Fred Hurwitz, of the Friends of Bedford Canine Corner, said he will address the council at its meeting next week to argue that because the warrant article on the dog park proposal was so poorly written, it would be impossible for councilors to determine the intent of the voters who cast ballots. And because interpreting the will of the voters would be difficult if not impossible given the language of the warrant article, the town council could take its own steps to make the park a reality.

"I'll take my five minutes and tell them there's nothing you can really conclude from the (warrant article) question," Hurwitz said. "I don't expect they'll agree with me, but I'll nevertheless be there to raise the issue with them."

The issue that Hurwitz and other proponents of the dog park refer to deals with language in the warrant article that addressed how to pay for and maintain the dog park.

The warrant article read as follows: "Are you in favor of the construction of a dog park on Nashua Road in Bedford, with the cost of construction fully funded in advance by a private citizens group?" The warrant article then gave voters three options for maintaining and paying for the park. The first called for the park to be paid for through taxpayer-funded money, taken out of the town's operating budget; the second option called for private funding the dog park; while the third called for the park to be privately funded and maintained "subject to a lease" with the town. While the question asking voters whether they were in favor of constructing a dog park won 63 percent of the vote, option three, calling for the park to be funded and maintained subject to a lease won the most votes, 1,554, out of the three secondary options.

"That was a poorly written warrant article," said Town Councilor Jim Scanlon, a proponent of the dog park. "Nobody on that nonprofit committee (Friends of Bedford Canine Corner) will sign a lease and assume the liability, and the council knows that. I told that to the other councilors well over a year ago. There hasn't been anyone in six years stepping forward to offer to sign a lease. There are two chances of it happening - little or none. I said it publicly then, and I'll say it again now."

Scanlon said he and Hurwitz drafted their own warrant article language and presented it to the council with the idea that it would find its way onto the March 12 ballot.

"Three people on the council turned down the wording we had come up with, and they drafted their own language" said Hurwitz. "I think what they came up with was intentionally poorly worded. Unfortunately, it was a small contingent that basically manipulated the process."

Hurwitz said that even if the town council rejects his recommendation at next week's meeting, the Friends of the Bedford Canine Corner can still work to get a referendum question placed on the next election ballot.

"I guess it's really up to us," said Hurwitz. "If we go through the referendum process, we just have to get 5 percent of the voters in town to sign a petition, and then we get to control the wording of the referendum."

hmetz@newstote.com

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