RIDGWAY – Neighbors of the Second Chance Humane Society (at its proposed new location at Angel Ridge Ranch) voiced their displeasure about the possibility of barking dogs and the loss of property value at a public hearing Tuesday before the county commissioners.
Second Chance supporters were also in full voice as approximately 40 interested citizens stretched the hearing – to consider a Special Use Permit for the new shelter – well beyond its allotted time. Commissioners were working their way through a list of 25 conditions recommended by county staff when Chair Heidi Albritton called for a continuation.
“I do apologize to the people here today who were hoping for a decision,” she said. “But I don’t like rushing through this. We need to take care in working our way through these conditions.” The hearing will be continued Monday, Aug. 29, at 9:30 a.m. at the 4-H Event Center in Ridgway.
Earlier, Albritton had asked County Planner Mark Castrodale if this were “a record number of conditions” for approval of a SUP. “No,” Castrodale answered, “but it’s close.”
Many of the conditions were in fact designed to mitigate impacts, such as barking, on neighbors bordering the 52-acre property at the intersection of Hwy 550 and County Road 10.
The SUP calls for a maximum of 25 puppies and dogs, and 50 kittens, cats and small mammals (ferrets, guinea pigs, etc.) on site. (There are 15 dogs and 40 cats allowed at the current shelter next door to Citizens State Bank in Ridgway.) All dogs will be housed inside the barn at night, according to Second Chance spokesman Dick Caldwell. And all outside runs will be situated to use the barn and other structures for noise abatement.
The conditions specifically address “barkers and whiners.”
“We know how to manage the problem,” Caldwell said, “even when we have a restaurant 50 feet away (the Galloping Goose). We don’t have a barking problem now. If we get a dog with nuisance tendencies, we have the ability to ship them out, to a Longmont facility for example, where they have a greater ability to find homes for the animals.”
As for property values, some in the audience thought the plans for the Angel Ridge property, which had been overgrazed and neglected for years, might actually improve neighborhood values. The conditions call for improvements to the buildings, restoration of pasture, a weed management plan and encouragement of native grasses, protections for riparian areas, instantaneous “spot cleaning” of dog waste while the animals are being walked, and so on, including some requirements that might seem like micro-managing: the bringing indoors of all food dishes after feeding time, for example.
Such assurances did not persuade some neighbors. Sharon Lake, who lives in the Juniper Hills Subdivision to the north, said, “I was home on Aug. 4 when they did their [noise] testing. I could hear their testing. Very loud. With my windows open. When the coyotes are howling, all of the dogs are going to bark.”
Second Chance volunteer Teresa Juliano testified that she had been with the shelter “for six months. And we do not have a barking situation.”
Caldwell said he had performed a noise study on Aug. 4, in which a recorded barking noise was played from a spot in the center of the Angel Ridge property. Caldwell then measured decibel levels at various distances and directions from the center. County residential daytime limits call for a maximum 55 db(a) of “offensive noise.” Caldwell said he measured a maximum 27-33 db(a) at 686 feet away, the distance from the recording to the Angel Ridge gate, and lower levels farther out, at the edge of Juniper Hills, for example, and inside the Dallas Meadows subdivision across the highway. He said highway noise was consistently much louder than the barking.
Nearest neighbor, across CR 10, Roger Noble said, “I’m probably the closest neighbor. The noise is one of my concerns. The second is the diminished property values I believe would occur, with a commercial property right next door.”
Ridgway veterinarian Dr. Joe Alaimo pointed out that the shelter is not a commercial operation and that the Second Chance Thrift Store, which is the shelter’s primary fundraising outlet, would not be moving to the new site. He also said that sales taxes from the Thrift Store generate $16,000 in revenue to the county. And that the communities served, in Ouray and San Miguel counties, “get all these services [housing, spay-neuter, home-finding, education] for free. In Mesa County,” he said, “the county has to pay to support these services.”
Ridgway Councilman John Clark said, “I think the county gets incredible value from Second Chance.”
Albritton concluded by encouraging the audience to return to the continued hearing if they so desired. But also assured them, “Trust me, we have listened to your comments and concerns, and we will take them into consideration” on Monday next.