The Winter Park City Commission voted down changes to its animal ordinance on Monday, another setback in its pursuit to reach a compromise between dog owners and nature lovers.
"It's clear the city does not have a handle on the situation pertaining to dogs in different parks throughout the city," Commissioner Beth Dillaha said. "They say the ordinance is adequate, but it's not adequate — it hasn't been working."
The vote on the proposed amendments to the ordinance was 2-2, with Mayor Ken Bradley and Commissioner Carolyn Cooper dissenting. Commissioner Phil Anderson was absent.
The failed proposal was not very different from the ordinance already in effect that prohibits animals in Central Park and in most areas of Kraft Azalea Garden, Mead Botanical Garden and Dinky Dock. The failed proposal simply tried to clarify the language in the existing ordinance.
"I believe the existing ordinance on the books is as good as this ordinance that we are dealing with," Commissioner Carolyn Cooper said. "I agree we have to do a lot more work on the ordinance."
The changes, which were recommended by staff, also sought to prohibit animals in streets adjacent to Central Park when a special event is being held there, a minor language change that would have allowed dog-themed events on streets near Central Park.
"Really there is only one change in the entire ordinance and that primarily is clarifying the ordinance on when dogs are allowed on Park Avenue," Commissioner Tom McMacken said.
"The intent was to get the stone out of the shoe so we can move forward. This ordinance does that."
On July 27, the City Commission voted down amendments to the animal ordinance proposed by the city's Parks and Recreation Commission that sought a blanket ban on animals in city parks, except for dogs boarding boats at Dinky Dock.
The Parks Commission was in part responding to public concern over dogs' affects on wildlife and the ecosystem in places such as Mead Botanical Garden. But a blanket ban was perceived by city staff and the City Commission as unnecessary.
Currently, the city does not identify conservation land in its land development code, but its comprehensive plan says it needs to. The city has assigned an expert to identify the environmental concerns at each park and come up with a plan — which could take a year or more.
"This ordinance isn't ready to be voted on…we're talking about changing an ordinance to respond to some of the issues we haven't yet created a code for," Commissioner Beth Dillaha said.
"I like to walk my dog but there's a balance here, and I just want to make sure we are not inhibiting Mead Garden from becoming what it can be," she said.