Planning for a new dog park in Litchfield continues, though progress has been slower than some on the City Council might like.
The Council approved a plan June 21 to have city staff meet with members of a dog park committee to resolve differences and settle on steps to move forward.
The unanimous vote followed a lengthy discussion about a plan developed by city staff that drew questions from some City Council members about the location of the park and its $81,155 budget.
The staff’s plan was developed, Administrator David Cziok wrote in a memo, following approval at the City Council’s June 7 meeting for a site near the municipal water plan on West 11th Street.
However, the plan ran into problems almost immediately, when public works staff pointed out that the proposed site is currently used to pile snow removed from city streets in the winter. That concern was addressed by moving the park to the west, which forced a reconfiguration of the park’s layout from that suggested by the dog park committee.
Because of those issues and others, “we aren’t on the same page” with the committee.
“I would recommend before we go any further you should authorize administration to sit down with the committee and massage this thing a bit so we have some sort of shared vision,” Cziok added.
Council member Eric Mathwig said that after reviewing the plans, he thought that was a good idea, and he also suggested another review of the park’s location. A map of the new proposed location showed its western boundary close to the property line of a residence on West 11th Street.
That location, Mathwig said, could make the city a bad neighbor if odor dog waste at the park wafted to the residence. He recalled the City Council’s denial of a conditional use permit earlier this year, because neighbors objected to the smell from a homeowner who was keeping – in violation of city ordinance – five dogs at their residence.
“The farther we could move it east,” Mathwig said of the dog park, “the better.”
Council member Darlene Kotelnicki, who in past meetings has expressed frustration with the pace of creating the dog park, asked how its creation might be delayed by a meeting between staff and the dog park committee.
“We’re not going to have a dog park in 2021,” she said, later adding, “We are five years into trying to do a dog park.”
Cziok said the quickest thing for the City Council to do would be to approve the dog park as proposed in his memo, but “I’m not sure that’s what everyone is asking today.”
“Council was concerned with the timeline and wanted us to get a budget to council in four weeks, and that’s what we’ve done,” Cziok said. Previously, he had said that, “I think administration saw this coming. We’re not going to develop (the dog park) exactly as the committee wished.”
Cziok also said meeting with the committee and coming to a quick resolution of issues in less than a month was not likely, because upgrades at Optimist Park would be his priority for the next two weeks.
Council member John Carlson endorsed the meeting between city staff and dog park committee and offered a motion as such, with staff reporting back to the Council within two meetings on progress of those discussions.