Pets are now allowed at Sandquist Family Park in the spectator areas as long as their owners take responsibility for them.

During the Cambridge City Council meeting June 15, Community Development Specialist Carri Levitski explained pets are not currently allowed on the athletic fields or in the Sandquist Family Park Softball Complex, located in Cambridge Township, as originally requested by the softball association. However, for the past couple of years, staff has received a lot of feedback regarding allowing pets at the park.

Levitski said in order to allow pets at Sandquist Family Park the council will need to amend ordinance 711 that regulates city parks and park lands.

“Pets are considered part of the family, and when going to watch an athletic event, many times families would like the option to bring their ‘furry’ family member along,” Levitski said. “There have been reservations about this in the past due to nuisance issues, barking, aggression, animal litter and so on.”

Levitski explained the city did receive a formal request from the softball association to let pets into the spectator areas at Sandquist Family Park. The request was brought to the June 9 Parks, Trails and Recreation Commission who voted unanimously in support of the ordinance amendment.

Levitski said the city had two basic animal litter stations on hand that will be installed at Sandquist Park, one in the baseball area and one in the softball area. She said if the council wishes to purchase more animal litter stations, the cost of a basic station with just bags is $150, and the cost of an upgraded litter station that has the bags and a deposit station is $250.

“As of right now we are going to try it with the minimum ones that we do have because there are garbage receptacles at our other park locations. We haven’t had a whole lot of issues in the other park areas,” Levitski said. “Luckily, we have very responsible pet owners in Cambridge, but it will be monitored going forward a little bit closer to see if there is a need for additional receptacles in the future.”

Levitski explained eight signs indicating pets are allowed within certain areas of Sandquist Park will be placed within different locations of the park at a cost of $30 per sign.

When asked by Council Member Bob Shogren, Levitski indicated that currently pets are allowed in all city parks, just not on any athletic fields, and not allowed anywhere within Sandquist Family Park.

Cambridge City Administrator Lynda Woulfe said a dog bite over a decade ago was the reason pets were banned at Sandquist Family Park.

“There was specific rules when we did Sandquist Park that said no animals because we did have a problem with a dog bite at the park when it was behind Target,” Woulfe said. “So at that point, then they banned dogs out at Sandquist Family Park. Now it’s been 10, 12 years, since we permitted dogs out there, but that’s the reason why council has specifically has said no more dogs at Sandquist Family Park.”

Following discussion, the council approved amending ordinance 711 and the purchase of the signage for Sandquist Family Park.

According to the ordinance, pets need to be on a leash and are only allowed in the spectator areas of athletic complexes and not on any fields unless they are a service animal. All animals that show aggression or are disruptive must immediately leave the park they are currently using. Pets are allowed off of the leash only in those areas designated by the city as an animal or dog park.

Future convenience store/gas station

Community Development Director Marcia Westover approached the council to amend ordinance 712 that regulates land use in the business districts.

Westover explained staff has been working with a developer on a gas station/convenience store/car wash site on the east side of the city in the B-2 Highway Business District. Currently city code requires an interim use permit for convenience stores and car washes.

Westover said in talking with the developer an interim use permit is unrealistic for their multimillion-dollar investment, as they cannot invest if there is no guarantee they will be able to keep their business. Westover said an interim use permit is temporary and has an end date. The developer would need to keep resubmitting extension requests for the interim use permit, and if the city finds the use incompatible with the area, the city can exercise its authority and not extend the interim use permit.

Westover said the B-2 Highway Business District is intended to provide space for auto-oriented uses and service businesses that are located in close proximity to major thoroughfares or highways. Convenience stores and car washes are important for auto-oriented uses. Perhaps requiring an interim use permit is unrealistic, since the city intends to have these uses in the B-2 zoning district.

Westover said the Planning Commission discussed the two options presented to them: Allow convenience stores and car washes “by right,” listing them as a permitted use, or allow convenience stores and car washes with a conditional use permit. Westover said by a 5-2 vote, the Planning Commission voted to allow automobile convenience stores and automobile car washes “by right,” listing them as a permitted use in the B-2 zoning district.

Following discussion, the council made a motion to follow the recommendation of the Planning Commission and amend ordinance 712 to allow automobile convenience stores and automobile car washes “by right” in the B-2 zoning district.

In other news:

• City Council Member Joe Morin brought up concerns he’s heard from residents regarding panhandlers in the city. Police Chief Todd Shuster cited the state statute that says, “No person shall stand on a roadway for the purpose of soliciting employment, business, or contributions from the occupant of any vehicle.” Woulfe said the city sought the city attorney’s opinion a couple of years ago on dealing with panhandlers and were told adopting an ordinance may interfere with peoples’ constitutional rights and freedom of speech; the city can’t regulate their freedom of speech. Woulfe said the only authority the city has is to ask panhandlers to move out of the public right of way. If the panhandlers are on private property, the property owner can ask them to leave. Woulfe said if people stop giving the panhandlers contributions, they will likely move on.

• City staff reminded the public that jumping from the Second Avenue Southwest bridge and jumping from the fishing pier at City Park are prohibited.

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