By Kevin Boneske
Despite the objections from nearby residents, the Oneida County Planning and Development Committee approved issuing a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to create an outdoor dog park near Walmart in Minocqua.
On a 5-0 vote Wednesday following a public hearing, committee members favored granting the permit for the Lakeland Area Dog Park, for which the land zoned for business use along Northridge Way and bordering Plaza Drive to the north is being donated by Bill Gardner to operate as a non-profit park.
The dog park will include two separate fenced areas totaling about 1.65 acres for large and small dogs to be able to run around without a leash. A parking lot with 10 spaces will be part of the park, for which parking will not be allowed in the right-of-way.
The CUP backed by the committee members also restricts the hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. or dusk, which ever comes, and does not allow external lighting to be installed. On the west side of the park, where residences are located nearby, the permit requires an 8-foot wooden privacy fence.
Committee members heard from both supporters and opponents of the dog park, which received the backing of the Minocqua Town Board prior to the public hearing.
The opposition of nearby residents included Morgan Oaks condominium owners, for whom Robert Eckert spoke on their behalf.
“We have 35 people who are against it,” he said. “We have a lot of concerns about it.”
Eckert said those concerns included the possibility of noise, odor, liability and declining property values with a dog park in the area.
“Are we going to be looking at something that’s going to lower our property values?” Eckert asked. “Is this something that’s going to be for the tourists, for the people from Illinois and outside of our area to use, and we’re going to be paying the price with our property values?”
He also objected to the property being taking off the tax rolls and suggested locating the dog park elsewhere, such as at the sports complex farther west in Minocqua along Hwy. 70 or next to the ball field along Hwy. 51 across from the Chamber of Commerce.
Other residents adjacent to the dog park site expressed their opposition to the project, also citing concerns about possible noise and odor.
Supporters included Vickie Abraham, one of the directors of the Lakeland Area Dog Park, who noted she has been involved with the project for about three years to try to find a location for the dog park that could be used by both local residents and visitors.
“We have asked (the town of Minocqua) for property at Hwy. 70 (at the sports complex) and there is no space available there,” she said. “We have talked about the ball park across from the Chamber. That is not feasible. We feel the dog park at this location (near Walmart) is a great area for visitors to come and take their dogs off (of a) leash.”
Another representative of the Lakeland Area Dog Park, Stephanie Mulleady, said she has visited dog parks in other states and found concerns about noise and odor “aren’t all that legitimate.”
“There is very little smell, if any, coming out of the dog park, because dog owners are very astute at picking up after their dog,” she said.
A condition in the permit for the Lakeland Area Dog Park calls for “keeping (the) park well-maintained with regular maintenance checks.”
Mulleady said the dog park in Minocqua wouldn’t have “a hundred dogs being in this dog park at once.”
“I just don’t think the noise is as big of a deal as what people (opposed to the project) would think,” she said.
Given the lot is zoned for business use, Mulleady said other allowed uses could create more noise there than a dog park.
“The light pollution alone for these (nearby) property owners alone would be far worse than a dog park that doesn’t even utilize lights,” she said.
County Planning and Zoning land use specialist Kathy Ray, who reviewed the permit application for the dog park, said she would be issuing the CUP, which doesn’t require full county board approval for the project to proceed.