Proposed animal ordinance changes spark debate

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — After months of public discussion, changes could be coming to the City of Jasper’s animal noise ordinance. But some residents believe the modifications could bring more harm than good.

The most recent draft of the potential language changes has a group of citizens worried that noises generated at animal kennels and boarding facilities could harm the quality of life and property values in areas across the city.

Through the proposed ordinance changes, it would be “unlawful for any person to own, keep, or harbor [any] animal which by its barking, howling, baying, squealing, crowing, crying, bleating, screeching, or making other noise which by its volume or frequency unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace and quiet of any person or of the neighborhood.”

There are exceptions not subject to enforcement, however, and this is where the debate has surfaced.

Businesses excluded from the ordinance’s reach would include commercial animal facilities, including but not limited to commercial pet facilities, animal welfare facilities, veterinary hospitals or grooming parlors otherwise in compliance with the Jasper Municipal Code.

“I think the biggest investment that most citizens have is their house,” said Karla Neukam, a concerned resident. “The property that they own and live in. The ability to protect and preserve that property is an important right to have. And there are changes that have been made in the zoning, as recent as December, that have allowed for certain size kennels to be in residential areas with a special exception, and there are permitted uses for kennels in other zoned areas that are adjacent to neighborhoods.”

City Attorney Renee Kabrick explained that animal kennels are a needed service and that potential owners have contacted the city to express their interest in opening new ones.

“It’s a needed service,” Kabrick said. “And it, I think, doesn’t seem logical or reasonable that the city would give a business permission to operate in a certain location, and then fine them for noises that naturally come with that business. How would that be different than if a machining company got permission to locate in an industrial area, and then we started fining them for having loud noises?”

Currently, small- and medium-sized animal boarding facilities and kennels are permitted to operate in areas zoned Business 3, as well as Industrial 1 and 2. Special exceptions for large kennels and facilities can also be granted in other zones. In addition, special exceptions for small and medium kennels can be given in residential and other areas.

Neukam and a group of her neighbors attended the December Jasper Common Council meeting and voiced concerns with noise generated at nearby Downtown Dog, a business that offers day care, grooming, and boarding services for dogs on East Sixth Street near the Riverwalk of Jasper. (That business operates in an industrial zone.)

Residents reported that the barking affects them regularly. At the time, Neukam said that of the previous 180 days, she and her neighbors had been affected on 165 of them. The bothersome barking can start as early as 6:30 a.m., she explained. She added that sometimes, the barking can go on for an hour and a half to two hours.

Earlier this month, a special exception was approved for Downtown Dog to start operating in a large kennel at a new facility on Cathy Lane. Many supporters packed the crowd at that meeting.

Now, Neukam is concerned that another kennel could move into Downtown Dog’s old space, which could mean more noise if the changes are adopted. She and her neighbors also believe the ordinance changes could potentially affect those living in other parts of the city.

Kabrick said city leadership is currently in the predicament of having given permission to a business to operate in a space, but also having to fine them for emitted noises that come along with that business.

At February’s council meeting, Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide told Neukam and her neighbors that the city has heard all sides of the debate, and he said that leadership doesn’t want to create future problems.

Kabrick said that if the language in the most recently presented version of the ordinance were to pass, businesses exempted from the animal noise ordinance would still be held subject to the miscellaneous nuisance ordinance.

Still, Neukam received a letter from the city in October that stated that while Downtown Dog was found in violation of the current animal noise ordinance, it was not found in violation of that miscellaneous nuisance ordinance.

The Council tabled the matter at its February meeting. It will revisit the issue at its next regular meeting, which is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, in the council chambers at city hall, 610 Main St.




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