On August 18, a Superior Court judge denied an appeal seeking to overturn the Conservation Commission’s approval of the Town’s modified plan to build a dog park on municipal land commonly known as the Moore Property.
The decision by Judge Edward Krumeich came with remarkable speed, at least as far as this matter has gone, arriving only two days after a bench trial was conducted on August 16.
First Selectwoman Samantha Nestor said, “I'm looking forward to providing this new amenity to our town, and I’m so grateful to all the donors who have waited patiently while we worked to make this happen. I give special thanks to the family and friends of the late Brian Gordon for their generosity.”
Bends in the road
Three years ago, litigation on the matter appeared to have run its course. The Town had prevailed against a lawsuit by plaintiffs — “intervenors,” in a case of this nature — who sought to reverse the Commission’s 2018 approval of the original dog park plan. By late 2020, all avenues of further appeal were closed.
In 2022, as officials began preparations to build the park, estimates for the Town’s portion of costs came to roughly double the amount projected years before. (Town costs, already budgeted and augmented by ARPA, are primarily to build a driveway, parking area, and drainage system. Building the park itself is funded by donations.)
So, a downscaled plan was developed to bring costs more in line with original figures.
The plan’s modification required a new approval by the Conservation Commission, which was granted in May of 2022. The new approval brought a new lawsuit by most of the same plaintiffs, represented by the same attorney, Stephen Nevas, and according to Judge Krumeich’s ruling, covering much of the same ground.
The ruling frequently refers to the prior Superior Court decision, finding arguments made in the new complaint already asked and answered in the old one.
The judge rejected a claim that the Conservation Commission lacked jurisdiction because wetlands on the property are far away from where the dog park would be located. He rejected a claim that the modified plan was not a modified plan, but a new one, which should be held to a higher mapping standard.
Judge Krumeich ruled claims that the park would pollute wetlands with dog feces had been made and rejected in the previous trial and that no evidence to the contrary had been presented. He ruled that “there was substantial evidence in the record to substantiate the Commission’s finding that the regulated activities in the modified plan would not adversely impact the nearby wetlands.”
The judge also rejected Attorney Nevas’s claim that “the Commission’s decision was tainted” by conflicts of interest, ruling that the First Selectwoman, Town Attorney, and Conservation Commission chair had no conflicts of interest. Their participation in the decision, he found, was consistent with their official duties and does not “reasonably raise any appearance of impropriety.”
Plaintiffs in the case, all represented by Mr. Nevas, were Sidney Dudash, Joan Dudash, Frank Costello, Gayle Costello, William Kolbert, Denise Kolbert, Ellen Strauss, Carolyn Welsh, Freda Welsh, Clifford Feller, Dania Feller Anderson, Antoine Mills, Joyce Mills, and Seth Anderson.
June 3, 2022: Conservation Commission Approves Dog Park
March 14, 2022: Dog Park Plan Referred to Commissions
February 16, 2022: Back in Focus: the Dog Park
November 23, 2020: Appeals Court Declines to Review Dog Park Ruling
August 27, 2020: Court Dismisses Dog Park Appeal
January 16, 2019: Dog Park Clears Another Hurdle
November 30, 2018: Dog Park Donation
April 4, 2018: The Ayes Have It
April 2, 2018: The Dog Park: Q&A
January 31, 2018: Town to Vote on Dog Park