Oak Creek Town Board denies request for commercial kennel | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek Town Board denies request for commercial kennel

Austin Colbert

— At its regular meeting Thursday, the Oak Creek Town Board voted to deny a request for a commercial kennel submitted by Michael and Joy Marx, who were wanting to house 13 dogs, 12 of which are Alaskan sled dogs, at a property located at 102 Bell Ave., near downtown Oak Creek.

The Marxes first made the request at a town board meeting in July. A final public hearing was held Thursday with a handful of residents present to voice their opinions.

“I wouldn’t want to live next door to it,” said Oak Creek’s Karen Halterman. “I simply believe this is just not the proper place to have a dog kennel, whether this is a commercial kennel for commercial business or private individuals who would like to house animals that are over the limit of our municipal code.”

The current town code limits residents to no more than three dogs or cats. But late in July, at the request of the Marxes, the town passed an ordinance that amended the rule on pet limits, allowing special requests to be made. From there, a formal request was made by the Marxes, who were hoping to turn the property on Bell Avenue, the Oak Creek Inn, into a bed and breakfast.

The Marxes also had long-term plans to use their dogs for commercial dog sledding, but initially would have the dogs for their personal use only.

“If and when we do start a bed and breakfast, the guests would not be privy to access to the dogs for the dogsledding,” Michael Marx said during the hearing. “We spent two years in Alaska, and then we acquired a dozen sled dogs, retired sled dogs, and brought those back with us. Honestly, we never expected to get this far, so we are really appreciative of the amount of work the town has put in.”

Residents consistently voiced their support for the Marxes and their desire to start a bed and breakfast in Oak Creek, but there were few in favor of the dog kennels in town. Of the eight letters the town board received, seven were in opposition to the kennel.

Oak Creek Planning Commission Chairman Jeff Gustafson voiced his concern that the Marxes use of the kennel did not fall under the definition of a land use change of minor impact, as the official application states, since the couple had no immediate plans to use the dogs commercially.

“What is this a land use change to?” Gustafson asked. “It sounds to me like you are moving into a house and you want to bring a dozen plus dogs with you.”

The town board voted unanimously against the kennel. Mayor Nikki Knoebel was not present, with trustee Wendy Gustafson serving as chair in Knoebel’s absence.

“I feel I have an obligation to the voters in this town, and the citizens that are present,” trustee Bernard Gagne said. “Darn near 100 people have said absolutely not. I’ve talked to virtually every business owner on Main Street, with two exceptions. Overwhelmingly, the answer is, ‘Please, no.’”

The town board did pass two ordinances Thursday.

Ordinance No. 635 made changes to the mitigation and sign standards, while ordinance No. 636 amended a section of the municipal code, which now states non-delinquent customers no longer have to put down a new utility deposit when changing residences.

The next Oak Creek Town Board meeting will be Oct. 8.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

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