The homeowners told RA in a letter/petition on Feb. 1 that it “Despite neighbors’ best efforts to encourage the [Fairfax County] Park Authority to effectively manage and create a sustainable solution for coexistence, we conclude that the only viable option is to close and relocate the dog park.”
The Reston Association Board of Directors will discuss the homeowners’ request its monthly meeting on Thursday and may decide to more formally discuss the matter in March.
It is unclear what, if anything, RA can do about the dog park, which is located in a Fairfax County Park Authority Park and not on Reston Association property.
The issue is not a new one. The dog park has been at Baron Cameron since 2001. The Longwood Grove owners — who are separated from the park by noise-reducing fencing material, four lanes of Wiehle Avenue traffic and several hundred feet — have been bothered by the noise pretty much ever since.
In recent years, the neighbors have asked the park authority to move the off-leash area farther into the park or to shut down the location and move it to Lake Fairfax Park, which has much more separation from private homes.
In March of 2014, five Longwood Grove homeowners filed suit against the FCPA and Reston Dogs, Inc., a nonprofit group that formerly ran the dog area, saying the park constitutes a private nuisance.
The complaint cited several previous Virginia rulings dealing with the definition of a nuisance. It claimed the residents are likely to suffer “irreparable harm from the dogs barking and fighting” and have no legal remedy other to quiet the noise other than to ask for an injunction to shut down the park.
The case was dismissed by a Fairfax County judge in March of 2015.
The recent letter from the Longwood Grove residents to the RA Board says “the negative impact of this park feature on our neighborhood is severe. The barking has created years of ongoing stress: the noise disrupts our sleep, invades peace and quiet of homes throughout the day, and can often be heard after the park has closed.”
The residents also say the increased traffic turning into the park is “unacceptable for a renowned planned community like Reston.”
Meanwhile, the new Fairfax County noise ordinance went into effect last week, which slightly altered the dog park hours. The new hours are 7 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset Monday through Friday. On weekends and federal holidays, the hours are 8 a.m. to one half-hour after sunset.
Here is the full letter:
Dear Reston Association Board Members,
We write to ask your help with nuisance noise caused by daily barking at the Baron Cameron dog park adjacent to our homes. The negative impact of this park feature on our neighborhood is severe. The barking has created years of ongoing stress: the noise disrupts sleep, invades the peace and quiet of homes throughout the day, and can often be heard after the park has closed.
The increased vehicular traffic, which includes many park users turning into or out of the park, makes it difficult to get out of Longwood Grove. We feel this is unacceptable for a renowned planned community like Reston that values the “peace, health, comfort, safety and general welfare of its members.” We hope you agree.
We do not oppose dog parks; we advocate for their responsible placement and management. We believe that many use the dog park responsibly; however, many do not. As many of us are dog owners, we understand that dogs bark. We believe that it is an owner’s responsibility to be in control of and responsible for their dog(s) at all times. None of the dog park rules are enforceable. This is a “use at your own risk” facility with voluntary compliance and no consequence for violation.
Dog park violations have been a long-standing problem even for the Reston Dogs sponsor groups. Despite neighbors’ best efforts to encourage the [Fairfax County] Park Authority to effectively manage and create a sustainable solution for coexistence, we conclude that the only viable option is to close and relocate the dog park.
The Longwood Grove neighborhood was developed in the mid 1980s. The dog park was installed as “interim use” into the then designated school site across the street in 2001. The Park Authority did not seek or receive Planning Commission approval as required by VA code 15.2-2232. This requirement is reiterated in county guidelines. This park feature clearly changed the characteristic of this park by exposing this neighborhood to a feature unlike any other in usage
and noise generation as it is utilized 365 days a year from early morning to dusk. Fairfax County has recognized barking as a nuisance since the adoption of the first Noise Ordinance 50 years ago. With the anticipated growth in Fairfax County, especially within Reston, we believe this nuisance will continue to worsen.
We recognize the desire for a dog park, but seek Reston Association’s assistance for ensuring any amenity within Reston serves and supports the needs of all members of the community; one that is in keeping with the fundamental planning goals of Reston which seeks to ensure the homeowner peace and enjoyment of their home and property.
Baron Cameron Dog Park/file phto