Updated April 13, 2012
Meadows Kennel seeks a "Use Permit" for a 50-dog kennel & 37 kennel dog runs, but Meadows Kennel issues will negatively affect Oakmont and surrounding property owners adjacent to the kennel.
[See location, plan drawing, and nearby residences]
Noise issues will impact 4 nearby neighborhoods in Oakmont with a total of 207 homes (Mesa Oaks: 40 homes; Meadowridge: 29 homes; Quail Run: 61 homes; Aspen Meadows Circle: 77 homes), plus all the surrounding homeowners in the county, directly adjacent to Meadows Kennel.
The following issues have already been identified with this kennel. Click on an issue to see full explanation:
- Violates Legal Protections
- Increases Traffic, Decreases Safety
- 50 Dogs Outside and Barking Simultaneously
- Required Home Sale Disclosure - Lower Property Value
- Sets Precedent - Disruptive Enterprises Across From Residential OK
- Owner Already In Non-compliance with Smaller Kennel
- Lack of Recourse For Neighbors When Problems Arise
- Applicant Claims Oakmont Supporters - Here Are The Facts
- Convenience, NOT Necessity, And Detrimental
Issue 1: A "Use Permit" Should Be Denied--This kennel project will not comply with basic legal protections for surrounding neighbors.
Dog kennels next to residential areas simply do not mix.
According to the law, a "Use Permit" (for this 50-dog kennel) can only be granted by Sonoma County, if the use is not: "detrimental to the health, safety, peace, comfort, and general welfare of person residing or working in the neighborhood of such use, nor be detrimental or injurious to property and improvements in the neighborhood or the general welfare of the area" (Sonoma County Zoning Code, and California Government Code).
Mitigation (trying to lessen the impact) of known problems of this kennel does not offer protections for the surrounding neighborhoods. There will still be major problems:
- Traffic safety will be compromised on heavily traveled Route 12. with increased traffic from a 50-dog kennel.
- Barking dog issues--the present kennel of 10 dogs is already a major problem for nearby home owners, the barking of 40 additional dogs cannot be mitigated.
Even the applicant's own sound study by "Sound Solutions" looking at only (!) 20 dogs outside at a time, states: "the sound levels associated with dogs barking are close to or at the adjusted limits. This implies that if the numbers of dogs were increased, levels exceeding the limits could arise." (p 5, "Noise Impacts . . . ." by Sound Solutions, Acoustical Consulting Service.)
Yet this sound study did not take into account that potentially all 50 dogs could be outside at the same time, because the proposed kennel buildings show that dogs inside the kennel building will be allowed to go outside into their individual dog runs. Site plans for the new kennel building show 35 outdoor dog runs directly from the kennel building while the existing kennel building has seven outdoor access dog runs. So there is a total of 42 outside access dog runs for this kennel.
- All home sellers nearby to this kennel will have the property value of their homes negatively impacted. See Issue 4, below.
Issue 2: Traffic Impacts and Safety Issues.
- Present traffic analysis (not study), created by Transportation Consultants, is only two-pages long and essentially says, no traffic study is required. However, California Dept. of Transportation in it's March 9, 2012 letter to planner, Melinda Grosch, states that "the Department is concerned with potential adverse impacts on State Route (SR) 12, if and when an intensification of traffic-generating development occurs." The Department requested on Sept. 19, 2011, that the county monitor "traffic entering and exiting of the proposed use." We believe that any traffic in the Highway 12 corridor from Melita Road (to the west) and Oakmont Drive (to the east) will impact the safety of residents who travel to access the kennel road.
- Accident data is woefully incomplete. The California Dept of Transportation in it's March 9, 2012 letter to the planner, stated that two reported accidents occurred within 0.1 mile (about 500 feet) of the project driveway from July1, 2007 to June 30, 2010. However California Highway Patrol (CHP) accident data at local office in Rohnert Park for a 15 month period, from 2010 to March 2012 for Melita Drive to Oakmont Drive (approximately 1.2 miles) which is the traffic corridor for this kennel, shows 37 accidents in these 15 months.
- In fact, a recent letter to Melinda Grosch from Gary Arnold, Calif. Dept of Transportation, District Branch Chief, shows concerns about adverse impacts when "traffic-generating development occurs." There are several big developments along this corridor which will increase traffic: Elnoka Village, a 14.15 acre multi-family project roughly at the intersection of HW 12 and Melita Road
and a new vineyard along with tasting rooms, etc. across from Oakmont, near Oakmont Drive. Traffic will only be getting worse as continuing development occurs.
- Safety when making left turns from highway 12: The current two-page traffic analysis tries to paint a rosy picutre of left hand turns from HW 12 onto the kennel road. It states that due to the width of the highway lane (12 feet) and shoulders (9 feet) "vehicles slowing or stopped to make a southbound left turn movement into the private lane may be passed on the right with care." However, all of we local drivers are scared to death of being rear-ended while we slow or stop--and many times there are cyclists on the shoulder and we cannot pass on the right shoulder. In fact, a resident, using this dog kennel lane, Tammi Bernd reported that she has been rear-ended three times from highway 12 traffic while she attempted to turn into this lane. Another couple reported that their daughter was rear ended, also trying to turn into this lane, and suffered months recuperating from this accident. And while traffic is only supposed to go 55 mph on this road, we have all seen people fly over this highway at much greater speeds.
Issues 3: Dog Barking Issues -
This dog kennel with potentially 50 dogs barking will disrupt the health, comfort, peace, and general welfare of the surrounding neighbors.
- Barking noise is such a concern that the county required the applicant to submit a "Noise Impact . . ." study in order to address barking dog issues and possible mitigation efforts. (Report titled: Noise Impacts and Mitigation in Connection with the Proposed Meadows Kennel, 6445 Highway 12 Sonoma County, California. Prepared by acoutical consultant: Sound Solutions)
- The present noise study only examines 20 dogs outside at a time, when in reality ALL dogs could have outside access. A new kennel building will have 37 kennel "dog runs" which clearly show access doors to outside caged areas. Already, measuring only 20 dogs outside, this kennel is at the limit of noise allowed for barking dogs. The study states "the sound levels associated with dogs barking are close to or at the adjusted limits. This implies that if the numbers of dogs were increased, levels exceeding the limits could arise." (p 5, "Noise Impacts . . . ." by Sound Solutions) A valid acoustical barking noise study would have to measure not only 20 dogs outside at a time (which is what the county will require) but also all remaining dogs which have access to dog runs--as they could be outside as well.
- Even with steps in place to address barking issues (mitigation) there will be major problems with enforcing barking limits. The sound study states: Disciplining collars will be used as needed. Such collars vibrate, spray, or administer a small electric shock in response to barking." (p4, Sound Study). However, the "operational requirements" for this kennel, as prepared by the county planners, only states: "Discipling collars . . . .shall be used as needed." This word "shall" does not sound "mandatory" to us. The applicant herself, stated in a recent Dec. 7, 2011, to Melinda Grosh, county planner overseeing this project: "If owner has authorized use of citronella or bark collar we will use them." So the applicant seems ready to ignore the sound study and the county which would require use of barking collars and only use them if her clients agreed! Such statements show that the applicant is not clear about barking collars.
Issue 4: Property Values of Nearby Homes Would Be Negatively Impacted: Homesellers Would Be Subject to California "Disclosure" Laws.
This kennel would clearly be "detrimental or injurious to property and improvements in the neighborhood."
- Existing "Doggie Day Care" facility does not need disclosure apparently, but proposed Kennel would definitely need one. See more detail here: Commercial Kennel vs Doggie Day Care
- California Real Estate forms require that home sellers must disclose any problem that would affect the property's value or desirability. Neighborhood noise or other nuisance must be reported. A phone conversation with California Department of Real Estate confirmed this.
- McBride Real Estate and Century 21 real estate agents told us that homes with a kennel nearby would have to disclose this if they tried to sell their homes. This would directly affect our ability to sell our homes and devalue our property--there are 4 Oakmont neighborhoods plus all county homes directly adjacent to the proposed kennel expanison, that could be affected by disclosure laws.
- In fact, lawsuits can result if a home buyer buys a home then realizes that the homeseller did not disclose a dog kennel nearby. This was verified by the California Department of Real Estate. In fact, here is an example of a lawsuit that did result when a home seller did not disclose a dog kennel nearby: LA Times: Dogged By Noise, Homeowners Ask Kennel for Piece and Quiet, Feb. 14, 1993.
Issue 5: This Kennel, If Approved, Sets Precedent That Enterprises Considered Industrial By Santa Rosa, Are Acceptable Near Santa Rosa Neighborhoods.
- The City of Santa Rosa places "kennels, animal boarding" in zoned industrial districts. See Santa Rosa City Code, Title 20, Division 2, Chapters 2024 Industrial district land uses - (kennel references will be highlighted in yellow).
- Of the 3 types of industrial districts defined by Santa Rosa, kennels are not allowed at all in Business Parks, are required to get a Conditional Use Permit in Light Industrial, and are required to get a Minor Conditional Use Permit for General Industrial. Unlike many other enterprises, they are not simply "Permitted" in any type of industrial district.
- To put this in true perspective, Warehouse Retail (think Costco), in Santa Rosa is another example of an enterprise which can be placed in Light Industrial,but only with a Conditional Use Permit, just like a full service kennel. The definition of Warehouse Retail in Santa Rosa is:
"A retail store that emphasizes the packaging and sale of products in large quantities or volumes, some at discounted prices, where products are typically displayed in their original shipping containers. Sites and buildings are usually large and industrial in character. Patrons may be required to pay membership fees."
Here is the link to the definition of Warehouse Retail (scroll down to yellow highlight at entry "W".)
- Approving this kennel would establish a precedent not only for full service dog kennels within a few hundred feet of Oakmont neighborhoods. It also would set a precedent that other noisy, disruptive enterprises in Sonoma County could point to if they wanted to build near Oakmont and other Santa Rosa neighborhoods.
- This precedent would apply to all neighborhoods in Santa Rosa near the border of Sonoma County, not just those near the proposed kennel.
Issue 6: Applicant Heidi Niemann, Owner of The Meadows Kennel, is Already Non-Compliant With a Number of Issues Regarding the Present Kennel. What would happen with a 50-dog kennel?
On Oct. 25, 2010, Ms. Niemann recevied "Conditions of Approval" (File UPE09-0069) for the present kennel of up to 10 dogs--only operating 7:30 am to 6 pm.
Nearby residents are aware of a number of issues which show noncompliance with county requirements for this kennel:
- Neighbors and residents in nearby Oakmont neighborhoods can clearly hear these dogs barking--and there are only 10 --in spite of the fact that Ms. Niemann was required to control the noise by following a noise exposure table for exterior noise exposures.
- Ms. Niemann was recently cited by PRMD (Sonoma County Permit and Resource management Department) for an un-permitted restroom in her existing kennel.
- Neighbors reported that Ms. Niemann was keeping dogs overnight--in violation of her present Use Permit which allows only daytime boarding. Ms. Niemann subsequently sent a letter to Sonoma County in which she addressed this issue stating "But I am no longer saying yes to overnights...no matter what." [email dated March 19, 2012 to planner Melinda Grosch.]
Issue 7: In Reality, Residents Who Complain of Noise from Barking Dogs Will Have Very Little Recourse Under This Present Application.
If nearby residents complain about noise from barking dogs, PRMD staff (Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department) and Sonoma County Animal Care and Control will investigate. Staff will come out with sound or decibel meters and see if Table NE-2 (in Draft, Conditions of Approval) which shows "Allowable (decibel-sound) Exterior Noise Exposures." has been violated.
Residents have no faith in this system.
Dog barking, by its nature, can be variable and intermittent--especially if 20 dogs are running outside and kennel building dogs are using their outside dog runs. The barking situation might have eased by the time a measurement is done--only to reappear again. We also notice that weather conditions and time of year impact on sound levels. We strongly favor a "clearly audible" standard, which is presently used by Sonoma County Animal Control when dog owners have troublesome barking dogs. Nearby residents, some 1/4 to 1/2 mile away can clearly hear the 10 dogs from the present kennel--and have long complained about this problem to no avail.
Issue 8: But Applicant Says: So Many People From Oakmont Support This Kennel.
Aspen Meadow's Association Chair, Mariellen Munson [Aspen Meadows is one of the Associations of which Oakmont is comprised], did an analysis of where Oakmont supporters of this kennel lived--based on letters, with addresses, on file for this project. Results showed that three supporters lived within 3/4 mile from the kennel while all other supporters lived 1 to 2 miles away from the kennel.
As of now (April 11, 2012), 4 homes associations in Oakmont, with a total of 207 homes, oppose this kennel. In addition, 12 of the 13 homes nearest this kennel in the County oppose the kennel. We would hope that Oakmont and County residents, even if they are not very close to the kennel, would think of their neighbors, fighting this kennel.
And while this kennel may be convenient to some, it is detrimental to others: the law states that a use permit (for this kennel expansion) must not be "detrimental to the health, safety, peace, comfort, and general welfare of person residing or working in the neighborhood of such use, nor be detrimental or injurious to property and improvements in the neighborhood or the general welfare of the area" (Sonoma County Zoning Code, and California Government Code). No where is "convenience" used as a factor when evaluating this project. As we have shown, this kennel expansion is detrimental to the surrounding neighborhoods.
Issue 9: This Kennel is a Convenience, Not a Necessity--Detrimental Effects Are Real to Nearby Homeowners.
We know that the applicant must demonstrate a "local need" in order for this kennel to be approved--but this kennel here, next to Oakmont, is a convenience. There are plenty of
other kennels nearby. No amount of "convenience" is worth the detrimental effects this project will have on surrounding homes.
An airport next door would certainly be convenient--but we would fight this all the way because of the noise.
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