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Proposed dog kennel nipped by commission

by Valerie Verkamp
Landmark assistant editor

An amendment to an ordinance that some people feared could serve as a gateway to the creation of a 'puppy mill' failed to pass Monday.

A Platte County zoning regulation in effect for the past 25 years does not permit kennel structures on agriculture or rural zoning properties, only in areas zoned as highway commercial.

But a citizen-led initiative would like to change the decades long ordinance. Michael and Jennifer Snook of Platte County filed an application with the county seeking a special use permit to construct a kennel to board dogs for the purpose of breeding.

Beverlee Roper, first district commissioner, warned if the ordinance is modified then there could be the potential creation of a 'puppy mill.'

In Platte County, kennel breeding is defined as a tract of land where more than five dogs over six months old or the owning of more than 15 dogs under six months old are kept.

The amendment being proposed “calls for as many as 30 indoor cells,” she said.

Roper said she isn't suggesting that anyone would operate a puppy mill, but indicated that a change in the ordinance could unintentionally lead to this type of development.

“If someone really built it out, you could actually build a puppy mill operation within (the confines of) what is being allowed,” said Roper.

Kennels are not entirely ruled out. Roper said kennels can be constructed in commercial zoning districts following the approval of the planning commission.

Duane Soper, second district commissioner, said he is also against modifying the ordinance but mentioned an entirely different concern.

“I don't feel there is any remedy for noise (complaints),” he said. If the noise becomes a nuisance to a neighboring resident, Soper questioned what cause of action will concerned citizens have to handle their complaint.

Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, took a different position. He indicated the construction of a kennel operation would not be guaranteed to just everyone, but would be allowed solely on a case-by-case basis.

“There is a process that an applicant would go through that encourages the dialogue between neighbors, property owners, and business people that want to start these businesses with their government, said Schieber. “I would like to make sure, as county government, that we have given our citizens that opportunity to have the exchange with the government.”

Although special use permits can be issued in a commercial zoning district, Schieber said a small business owner interested in operating a dog kennel in a rural area should have the ability to manage it in closer proximity to their home. A kennel in highway commercial zoning district would not allow the kennel owners to live on site, for instance, according to Schieber.

Schieber said concerns of such an establishment would be heard well before a special use permit was issued.

“The special use process is designed to give owners of properties a process to exercise their rights, as well as protect neighbors from that. I think without the opportunity to have the discussion I think you are shutting our residents out,” he said.

In response to Schieber's argument, Roper said the veterinarians she had spoken with have indicated they were very concerned.

When reached by The Landmark, Jennifer Snook declined to comment.

The amendment failed to pass on a 2-1 vote, with Roper and Soper opposed.

The county’s planning and zoning commission had recommended approval of the amendment.