Dog ‘business’ on Pocahontas Trail property has resident questioning council

Brown bushes and an ammonia-like smell prompted homeowner’s concern.

Stock image.

A neighbor’s callous response to dog feces he left on another resident’s property prompted the Pocahontas Trail homeowner to request guidance from the Medford Township Council.

Valerie Hairell spoke during public comment at an Aug. 5 council meeting, where she recalled seeing dogs walking on the dead-end street and other residents refusing to pick up feces. Hairell’s shrubbery began dying and she smelled something that resembled ammonia.

“The children across the street play ball all of the time, and I feel sorry for them coming into my shrubbery, where all of this peeing is being done, and they’re touching the area and playing in the area to retrieve their balls,” Hairell complained.

The 36-home Pocahontas Trail community has an HOA (homeowner association), but it does not have a common area or rules regarding behavior and property upkeep. When she confronted the neighbor who had allowed his dog to do its business in her shrubs, Hairell  said  he justified the action because portions of her property are part of the township’s right-of-way.

She noted a year-old request by Mayor Chuck Watson for residents of a 55-and-up community in Medford to look after one another and clean up after a dog finishes its business, and to prevent a lingering smell by carrying water bottles to spray greenery.

“I’ll put out water bottles, but if there’s no ordinance, then the neighbors will be compelled to walk right by and continue what they’re doing and saying, ‘It’s township land’ and you don’t care, but I care,” Hairell said.

“It’s my property.”

Township Solicitor Tim Prime clarified that right-of-ways are for revenue purposes, or for township services such as installing utilities. A right-of-way that extends into a homeowner’s property does not make that land township owned.

“Feces have to be picked up. Beyond that, it’s a courtesy,” Prime stated.

Watson reminded Hairell that she retains ownership of her property and enforcement of right-of-way could be sought by code enforcement. Hairell said she has spoken to the offending neighbor and he followed up with an email telling her a portion of her property lies within the right-of-way and his dog can do its business there.

Hairell was instructed to forward the email to Township Manager Kathy Burger for further resolution.

Council holds its next meeting Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. via Zoom video conference. The method of the meeting was switched following Gov. Phil Murphy’s Aug. 3 executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 25 percent capacity. An agenda can be viewed by visiting MedfordTownship.com.