Zoning board approves kennel expansion near Oakmont

Tensions ran high at a Sonoma County hearing to approve a dog kennel expansion on Highway 12 Thursday.

The proposed expansion of Meadows Kennels increases the current 10-dog limit to 35 dogs over two phases, adding overnight boarding. The Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments unanimously approved the kennel expansion after a nearly three-hour hearing.

Residents from the kennel's neighborhood and nearby Oakmont came out in force to protest the expansion, complaining of noise and traffic issues.

"It's an inappropriate place for a kennel," said Oakmont resident Shirley Phillips, who started an online petition against the expansion. The petition received 168 signatures over the course of a week.

Heidi Niemann, who owns and operates the kennel, has sought to expand the kennel since 2011. Niemann originally applied for a permit for 50 dogs, but at a hearing in March 2012 the board determined the kennel needed to make adjustments to mitigate neighborhood concerns.

"I'm trying to be really mindful of the neighbors," said Niemann.

More than 40 people initially lined up to speak during the public portion of the hearing, but the number dwindled slightly during a two-hour delay to the hearing's start.

"(Niemann) does not have the support of her neighbors," said Tim Badger, who lives near the kennel.

The kennel, which sits on a three-acre parcel already zoned for agriculture, serves clients from Oakmont, Skyhawk, Glen Ellen and Sonoma. A number of clients appeared at the hearing to support Niemann. Traffic topped the list of concerns among opponents.

"Our intersection is affected by kennel traffic, and the expansion (would) generate more traffic," said Rich Hill, who lives up the street from the kennel. Hill noted 10 of his neighbors have been involved in traffic accidents.

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