Ann Arbor Planning Commission postpones action on new Arbor Dog Daycare expansion proposal
The owners of Arbor Dog Daycare will be forced to wait at least two more weeks for a decision on their proposed expansion.
The Ann Arbor Planning Commission voted unanimously to postpone any action on the daycare’s expansion at Tuesday's meeting. The project would see the daycare grow from 3,200 square feet to a maximum of 8,800 square feet at its current location at 2856 S. Main St.
The expansion would allow a maximum of 125 dogs on the site, five times the current amount, and 15 outside at any one time.
Owners Jon and Margaret Svoboda said they felt like an end to the long process was coming soon.
“I think we’re right on the edge of a solution for everyone,” Jon Svoboda said. “It’s regrettable that less than one-third of 1 percent is holding this project up, but with that said, we’ll address their concerns as well.”
Tuesday’s meeting marked the third time the Planning Commission considered the daycare’s proposed expansion. It voted in September to approve the expansion, but not with the required six votes. The commission voted on Oct. 6 to reconsider the project.
Chief among the concerns voiced by commissioners who voted no was noise from barking dogs. The Svobodas have been working with residents in the neighboring Barlmoral Park Condos. Margaret Svoboda said she personally went knocking on doors on three separate days to meet with residents and pass along her contact information.
The decision on whether the commission will vote again on the daycare plans will be made by Oct. 26. In the meantime, city staff will be researching what possible stipulations can be added, such as reviews by the commission, what decibel level would consider dog barking a nuisance and clauses if the Svobodas happen to sell the property.
Tim Thieme was one of the residents from Barmoral Park Condos who attended the meeting to speak against the project, albeit reluctantly. Thieme lives in a unit near the “dog run,” where dogs go to the bathroom and run around on the south end of the property. He said the noise is already annoying.
“I applaud the day care for trying to come up with a solution that’s amenable for everybody,” he said, “but to expand operations from 25 dogs to potentially 125 dogs, even if there’s just 15 outside, there will be continuous barking all the time.”
Commissioners said the majority of letters and e-mails they received from residents around the daycare supported the project, but they still worried about residents with concerns.
“It’s clear the owners are making an effort and these issues are being brought to their attention for possibly the first time,” Commissioner Kirk Westphal said. “I’m willing to rehear their proposal (with adjustments), but it doesn’t seem to warrant approval at this point.”
One adjustment to the special exception the Planning Commission is considering is that dogs barking incessantly would be removed from the “dog run” area immediately.
Jon Svoboda said the daycare recently changed its policy so that either of the two staff members who observe the dogs in that area could remove a barking dog without having to ask a manager, which was the previous policy. Dogs will only be allowed in the dog run area from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Commissioner Tony Derezinski said he believes only Zingerman’s Delicatessen worked as well with its neighbors as Arbor Dog Daycare. He pointed to the staff’s recommendation to approve it and the support from the owner of the neighboring condominium complex as major positives.
“There may be objections, but there are objections to every project,” he said. “This is a business in our community that has been there already and wants to expand in away that would meet 99.9 percent of concerns. So do you go on that 0.1 percent or with overall picture?”