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In a unanimous decision during it’s special meeting on Jan. 15, the Chaffee County Planning Commission declined to approve Alison Brown’s kennel application for her rural-zoned property at 11600 Antelope Road. The motion, to request the county attorney to prepare a resolution denying the application, was made by chair Mike Allen and seconded by Planning Commissioner Dan McCabe, said  it was the Planning Commission’s view that the application failed to meet Chaffee County’s Land use Code.

The three and one-half hour meeting with public hearing, for the limited impact review application was continued from the Planning Commission’s November 2018 meeting. Based upon the applicant language the request was; “To allow for an outfitting facility to provide service, housing or safekeeping to animals that are used in conjunction with guiding services involving riding out for hunting with foxhounds on public lands with other individuals who are not affecting substantial control over the foxhounds.” The application would have allowed for a kennel facility to provide service, housing or safekeeping for 25 hounds.

Prior to rejecting the application, the Planning Commission first moved to accept the notice of decision as drafted by the staff. The motion, made by Chair Mike Allen, was seconded by Planning Commissioner Marjo Curgus. The five to one vote to accept the report and request the county attorney craft a findings and facts document; Allen, Curjus and Commissioners Bruce Cogan, Tracy Vandaveer and Bill Baker voted yes, with Dan McCabe voting no. Joe Stone recused himself from the meeting to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

The meeting began with Allen asking whether any commissioners or staff were perceived to have a conflict of interest. Brown had earlier questioned staff objectivity in writing to Chaffee County Commissioners based on testimony during a summer, 2018 District Court case in which her neighbor, Chris Vely, had revealed that he had asked three members of county staff to his house, ostensibly to listen to and count the dogs on Brown’s property. But that there had been no site visit. Brown said she would have been glad to arrange a site visit, and that during the sound measurements all her dogs were on the property, adding she had hired an off-duty police officer to be present the entire week of the measurements.

Development Manger Jon Roorda’s original staff report had claimed that there were no more than 10 dogs on site when staff members visited Vely’s property. A last-minute change in his staff report changed that language, including that they didn’t find Brown was violating any noise standards in earlier decision.”

There has been a recent Planning Commission site visit. “I’ve gone through it with the conclusion that no conflict of interest was found … nothing invalidates the hearing we’ve already had on this notice of decision,” said Allen.

“Regarding the inaccuracies outlined in the letter of Nov. 26, there is an affidavit from Quinton Turner, who was doing security during the test and the dogs weren’t removed until analysis was performed,” said Attorney Michael Scott who was there representing Brown. “ These were used in the court case hearing by Judge Patrick Murphy and the sound levels were within acceptable sound limits – so this has been covered.”

Brown’s comments focused on the several steps she has taken in the past to try to mitigate the sound of her dogs from neighbors who complained including; berms, placing her barn and storage containers in the sound path, and outfitting the dogs with bark collars. She suggested a sound wall, that for maximum benefit would have had to be placed on her neighbor’s property uphill from hers, which the neighbor rejected. She outlined which ones might work and which ones would be considered inappropriate for American Foxhounds, including forcing them to live inside.

Objections to Brown’s kennel application during the public hearing came from the same people who had objected to her outfitting facility the year prior; they included noise and her use of the private road easement by which neighbors on the road access their property. Other neighbors said they had no problems and enjoyed the dogs. It was brought to light that prior to moving to the county and next door to Brown, that Vely had received a settlement related to a sound compliant, so this was not the first time he had complained about his neighbors.

The Planning Commission deliberation focused on whether there were any mitigation steps which would be acceptable. The discussion included whether the Planning Commissioners could require that a kennel approval be given only for the current occupant, and not run with the land; something legally within their control.

“I see this limited impact review dealing with noise,” said Curjus. “The nuisance ordinance and the kennel ordinance deal with “nuisance” in different ways.”

Brown indicated that she was willing to try any mitigating steps that could be mutually agreed upon with Planning Commissioners. She also raised the prospect of grandfathering her kennel, because it was in place before the county rules were changed, which was rejected.

“Dogs barking at wildlife. That seems to be the biggest impact on this proposal,” said Allen.

“That’s why I asked my question, in order to mitigate,” said Curgus. “We have impacts. What do we do? If the dogs can’t be locked up at night, then you can’t mitigate night noise. If the applicant can find some ways for noise during exercise…. can this particular breed able to be mitigated?

“Every other issue on this application is fixable, but I don’t’ know how to get around the noise,” said Bruce Cogan.