Dog park center of debate at Board of Trustees meeting

By: Thomas Franz | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published May 3, 2016

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Similar to a Planning Commission meeting in early April, a host of residents spoke out during a Macomb Township Board of Trustees meeting April 27 to voice their displeasure over a proposed dog park.

The park would be located along 21 Mile Road, behind Fire Station No. 2.

Township Clerk Michael Koehs joined the residents in voicing opposition to the park by stating that there are other suitable locations within the township for it.

One such location, Koehs said, could be at the site of a closed landfill located at 24 Mile and Foss roads. The other spot proposed by Koehs was an area of 28 acres located next to the Township Hall building.

“That’s a natural piece that would be a great place for a dog park,” Koehs said of the land near the Township Hall building. “The purpose of the landfill site would have to be passive recreational. A dog park would be a good fit up there.”

During the meeting, residents who live near the proposed park location voiced similar concerns to that of the planning meeting. The concerns included odor, noise, safety and decrease of privacy.

Parks and Recreation Director Sal DiCaro reiterated that residents of nearby communities voiced similar concerns of dog parks prior to their approval, but complaints have been minimal since their implementation.

“We listened at the Planning Commission meeting. We looked at all of their concerns, we met, and we would like to address all of their concerns,” DiCaro said.

As for the possible locations mentioned by Koehs, DiCaro said his department has only considered the acre-and-a-half plot on the south side of 21 Mile Road, between Garfield Road and Romeo Plank.

“We’re not even looking into that stuff,” DiCaro said of the sites Koehs mentioned. “Clearly, this is the parcel of land we want to put that dog park in.”

DiCaro added that the 21 Mile location is also economically feasible.

“This has evolved over the last couple of years. One of the reasons we chose that parcel is one, we own it, and two, there would be very minimal amount of modifications to it, so therefore it would be very economical. You wouldn’t want a public park on a landfill,” DiCaro said.

The park would feature separate areas for small dogs and big dogs, and leave a greenbelt of 84 feet in between the parkland and lot lines with bordering homes. A 4-foot fence would surround the park, and DiCaro said more trees and greenery have been added to the original plans to maintain privacy for homeowners.

“I’m fully confident that we’re going to have a dog park and that’s going to be the location. We want to be good neighbors and we want to do what’s good for everyone, but we still feel that’s the best place for a dog park in this community,” DiCaro said. “A lot of people are asking why is it a 4-foot fence instead of a 6-foot fence. The reason is that’s what all of the dog parks in the area have.”

In addition to saying the proposed location is not the right spot for a dog park, Koehs said the township shouldn’t be placing such a high priority on the park.

“I don’t think the township should have a high priority in establishing dog parks when we can’t even walk on a sidewalk without stepping into the right of way or walking through a muddy field,” Koehs said.  “The issue is, is a dog park really a priority, or like I said, is this just something people are doing during an election year to say, look what we did for you?”

Koehs added that he has previously asked for the parks department to investigate the possibility of creating more parkland in the southern half of the township, but the dog park would not be a positive solution.

“If the township wanted to put in a little exercise walking trail back there, something that’s very low impact — all of our big parks are located north, but if you give us a field of dog waste is really not what the people south of 23 Mile Road deserve,” Koehs said.

The site plan for the park was approved by the Planning Commission April 5, but it must also receive approval from the Board of Trustees. Discussion of the park was a late add-on to the Board of Trustees’ April 27 meeting agenda.

Any vote or further discussion of the park was tabled for two weeks.