Wednesday, October 21, 2020
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The Villages

Dog owners miffed over ‘no trespassing’ signs at popular gathering spot

Dog owners are miffed over “no trespassing” signs posted at a popular gathering spot in The Villages.

The signs have gone up at the site of the old First Baptist Church which will be the future home of the First Responders Recreation Center. The Amenity Authority Committee voted to put up the “no trespassing” signs at the 20-acre property due to concerns about potential liability.

A sign welcomed dog walkers to property at First Baptist Church at The Villages. The sign came down in 2017 after the church changed its policy.

Years ago, dogs and their human companions were welcome on the property, thanks to the hospitality of the church.

“Because the church wanted to be a good neighbor, they authorized Villages residents to use it as dog park. For a while, everything went well,” said AAC member Don Deakin, who represents Community Development District 4, where the property is located.

However, there were reports of dogs running off leash, golf carts driving on the grass and conflict between dog owners. A Villager’s adult son was arrested in 2016 after a barking dispute between a Cocker Spaniel and a Standard Poodle.

‘No Trespassing’ signs have gone up at the site of the future First Responders Recreation Center.

“Citing liability issues, on the advice of their attorney and insurance provider, the church board posted signage stating that the property could no longer be used as a dog park and gathering place for other activities,” Deakin said.

The church’s signs came down after the AAC purchased the property. Soon, the dogs were back. So were the complaints.

The AAC voted in September to put up the “no trespassing” signs. After the signs went up, the grumbling began.

There are those who clearly continue to flout the signs and continue to exercise their dogs on the property.

Deakin said the AAC isn’t bluffing.

“It should be noted that about two years ago a similar problem developed in the southeast corner at the back of the VA Clinic’s parking lot in the Mulberry Grove Plaza. Several people were gathering in the evenings a couple of times each week to socialize, play music on their radios, drink, party, etc. Their activities were disturbing the peace in nearby Phillips Villas and so these activities were reported to Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Marion County sheriff’s deputies did respond; and after verbal and written warnings were issued for disturbing the peace, trespassing, and public drinking, some of the offenders were arrested,” Deakin said.

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