Oakmont kennel project heads to supervisors

Supporters and opponents of a hotly contested dog kennel project near Oakmont are set to clash again Tuesday, this time before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, which will make a final decision over the project's fate.

The proposed expansion of Meadows Kennel, off Highway 12 north of Oakmont Drive, has drawn fire from some neighbors who claim the additional dogs -#8212; the number would go from 10 dogs to a maximum of 35 and allow overnight boarding -#8212; could shatter their peace and quiet and harm property values.

They appealed the project's unanimous approval last year at a packed, three-hour hearing of the county Board of Zoning Adjustments, sending the project to the Board of Supervisors.

"The increased traffic delays and risks at this intersection created by this business" won't be borne by supporters but by neighbors, attorney Bob Haroche, representing three nearby residents, wrote in a letter to the supervisors last week. "Nor the unwelcome sound of dogs barking less than 100 feet away at sirens from a passing emergency vehicle, something that on average happens three times a day."

But supporters say fears of snarled traffic and the din of barking dogs are unfounded. The business is a good neighbor providing a valuable service to pet owners in the nearby senior community, they say.

"We've got no complaints" about the kennel, said Oakmont resident Richard Cox, whose house sits on a hill across Highway 12, overlooking the business.

The kennel is situated on a three-acre parcel on the east side of the highway and down a private lane called Richards Road.

Owner Heidi Niemann "has done nothing but improve the visual aspect of the place," Cox said.

The kennel dispute is just the latest county proposal to stir divisions in the upscale and politically influential community on Santa Rosa's eastern edge.

While winery developments and large commercial outlets remain the most hot-button projects countywide, Oakmont residents have tangled over much smaller plans.

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