RICKREALL -- The Rickreall Advisory Council has filed an appeal to stop Polk County from locating its dog pound on a tract of land off Rickreall Road, near the Highway 22/Dallas Junction.
Last week, the advisory council decided to continue with its appeal after an hour-long work session with the county planning staff and commissioners.
During the past year, county commissioners have been exploring locations for the county dog pound.
Originally, the commissioners and their staff wanted to place it at the Polk County Fairgrounds. The Rickreall Advisory Council and various community members didn't like that location.
Community members felt that placing a dog control facility in a recreational park could cause any number of problems. Everything from spreading disease, to noise and traffic disruption.
Rickreall residents fought and the commissioners (though desperate to find a location) relented enough to find another site.
Enter Ron Blessing. Blessing has a tract of land off Rickreall Road he offered to the county in a long-term lease.
The tract of land is zoned as Acreage Residential-Five Acres (AR-5). Basically, it's high value residential land.
Among other things, AR-5 land can be used for schools, libraries and small homes or commercial kennels.
Blessing's land is surrounded by Rickreall industrial land and a small section of exclusive farm land.
Under the dog kennel allowance in the AR-5 zoning, county officials are arguing that Blessing's land is usable for a dog pound. Even though a dog pound isn't technically a kennel.
Officials have interpreted the AR-5 uses to include a small dog pound.
They thought their controversy had been solved.
However, the Rickreall Advisory Council members disagree with the dog kennel interpretation. Hence the appeal.
Councilors feel a commercial kennel is not the same as a dog pound. They argue that the AR-5 allowances clearly identify specific uses that can benefit the entire community, like schools or libraries.
County officials argue that the AR-5 language lists libraries and schools as examples of how AR-5 land can be used, not as the only way AR-5 land can be used.
County planners say that the zoning does not exclude dog pounds and that it allows for commercial kennels. Commissioner Phil Walker pointed out that any commercial kennel would house twice as many dogs as the County planned on keeping.
During the work session, county resident Penny Cox said that the council was concerned with the loose way the county was choosing to interpret its own ordinances.
So the appeal stands.
Planning Director Jim Allen questions the validity of the appeal.
He expressed frustration with the amount of time he and his staff spent getting the proper permits and researching the the sites viability, only to be thwarted again by what seems to many as a baseless appeal.
So Blessing's first offering has been blocked for now.
Yet there is a third option. Blessing has another section of land north of the tract he originally offered.
It is situated much closer to the Highway 22/Dallas junction and the county staff may be able to get conditional use permits to allow for development.
The tricky part is that the northern tract of land (an oddly shaped, narrow parcel) has three different zones: industrial, AR-5 and exclusive farm use.
According to staff, this third option may be ideal. It is further away from neighboring homes and businesses, and it is closer to the highway.
The northern section of land would allow visitors to the pound direct access from Highway 22. Also, it is more isolated from the greater Rickreall community.
It is possible that the Rickreall Advisory Council will appeal the third location as well.
There is a great deal of animosity built up between the two parties and neither side seems willing to budge another inch.
The citizens of Rickreall have made it clear that they don't want a dog pound located in their community. Period.
The commissioners and their staff have made it clear that they will be placing the pound somewhere in Rickreall. Period.
The advisory council has not yet had the opportunity to considered the new site, as it has not been presented to them formally.
Commissioner Tom Ritchey did informally present it at a recent council meeting, as a way to "test the water."
He said that he felt the council was more receptive to Blessing's second site.
He pointed out that the new option had unique zoning challenges that would need to be addressed, but he seemed optimistic that the location nearest the highway could finally put the dog fight to rest.