A plan to alter the leash law in rural Southold -- keeping dogs off beaches when a lifeguard is on duty, but allowing them access at other times -- likely will not be voted on for several months.
The town board on Jan. 29 will hold a formal public hearing on the change. But the board informally agreed to keep its hearing open until March or April, after one resident complained Wednesday that any change adopted in winter would likely upset many summer residents.
"I can make strong arguments for and against it, but I don't like to argue with myself," said Robert Dunn of Peconic.
But, he added, whether the law is passed, Southold's summer residents will clearly be upset if the town board votes on any change without giving them a chance to comment. The town's population can easily double when all the seasonal rentals are filled.
"That's part of the reason people come out here," he said.
Town Supervisor Scott Russell said, however, "We can't wait for summer."
Southold's law prohibits dogs from recreational areas, except parking lots and adjacent walks, and requires them to be on a leash no longer than 4 feet at all times. The proposed change would allow dogs on beaches without lifeguards -- or on guarded ones after the lifeguard leaves -- and permit dogs to be under the "immediate supervision and control" of their owner or handler.
Because several of the town's beaches are in private park districts, with their own rules and regulations, some town board members questioned whether the proposed law would turn some beaches without regular lifeguards into de facto dog parks.
Town board member Jill Dougherty said the board had met with people on both sides of the argument before drafting the new proposal and sought their help in writing it.
Dunn was the only person at Wednesday night's town board meeting to speak about the change, but most town board members nodded in agreement when he predicted that adopting any new law would lead to an outpouring of comment.
"The bulk of the people, pro and con, don't get involved until their lives are restricted," he said.