The site of the former Sarasota Police Department on Ringling Boulevard might be going to the dogs.
Commissioner Shannon Snyder proposed Tuesday that the city consider fencing in the grassy land on Ringling Boulevard beside the Judge Lynn N. Silvertooth Judicial Center as a compromise for those seeking a dog park at Payne Park.
"It's away from the kids. It's away from the park. It's individual; it's separate, and you have activity on that lot," Snyder said. "I don't think anyone at the jail is going to complain about having dog's across the street."
The city has a memorandum of understanding with Sarasota County Government to use that lot to build a judicial tower, according to city officials, but Snyder guessed that the county wouldn't have the funds to build that tower for the next 10 to 20 years.
He also suggested looking into the former site of the old Payne Park baseball stadium scoreboard beside the tennis courts, which might be a larger piece of land off at U.S. 301 and Laurel Street as an alternative.
Commissioner Terry Turner supported both ideas because it would avoid getting into a study and discussion about making adjustments to the Payne Park Master Plan. The scoreboard land wasn't included in the Payne Park Master Plan, he added.
Mayor Suzanne Atwell said she preferred a dog park should be in a park environment and not at a standalone site.
"It's part of the overall experience," she said. "When you isolate a dog park, I feel like you're isolating the experience."
The discussion came out of what to do about free roaming dogs playing with their owners and causing some issues at the park in the playground with kids and having dog doo-doo left just about anywhere.
Dogs are allowed to be off a leash in Payne Park as long as they are under verbal control within 100 feet, while a leash up to 26 feet long is required at Arlington Park, Bayfront Island Park and Gillespie Park.
The leash length also gave commissioners some concern. That is up for discussion to be adjusted.
"I'm a bit curious because at the end of the leash, the dog is just tethered because he isn't really under control for his right, left," Vice Mayor Willie Charles Shaw said. "By the time you pull back from here to there, what might happen?"
"I'm not real impressed with people being able to control their dogs off a leash," Commissioner Paul Caragiulo said.
City staff also recommended that the new playground at Payne Park would be pet-free.
The City Commission directed staff to have the Parks and Recreation Board to gather comments about both proposed dog park sites and having Payne Park to be included in the city's leash law. City staff also recommended that the new playground at Payne Park would be pet-free.
Two residents who spoke during public comment said they supported requiring dogs to be on a leash at Payne Park.