Supervisors support scaled-back Oakmont kennel expansion

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday signaled support for the controversial expansion of a dog kennel north of Oakmont, albeit as a downsized version.

At Supervisor Susan Gorin's suggestion, the board directed staff to limit the kennel's capacity to 20 dogs, up from 10, rather than the originally proposed 35.

"We want people to be safe here and have opportunities to board their dogs," Gorin said of the project, which has divided the retirement community of Oakmont between those supporting the kennel as a valuable community asset and those who say it will worsen traffic and create unwanted noise.

Meadows Kennel is situated on a 3-acre parcel on the east side of Highway 12, down a private, residential lane called Richards Road. A two-phase plan to increase the kennel's capacity to 35 dogs and allow overnight boarding was approved by the county Board of Zoning Adjustments last year, prompting neighbors who oppose the expansion over traffic and noise concerns to appeal to the Board of Supervisors.

Under the plan approved by the zoning board, owner Heidi Niemann would have been allowed to begin overnight boarding and expand her kennel to hold 20 dogs in year one. At the end of that year, the project would come up for another review. If she passed review, Niemann then could have expanded to 35 dogs.

But Niemann said after Tuesday's meeting that she was fine with the compromise reached by the supervisors, particularly because she does not think she'd be ready to expand beyond 20 dogs within a year. Under the supervisors' proposed changes, she also will be allowed to offer grooming and training this year, rather than waiting until the second phase.

The project's opponents also seemed satisfied. Tammi Bernd and her husband, who live directly across from the kennel, were one of three couples who hired a lawyer to help them protest the scope of the project.

"I'm satisfied," she said. "We'd be happier with just 10dogs, but we're willing to do 20."

The board's recommendations came after hearing about two hours of often-emotional comment from residents who packed the chambers.

"One thing that is really clear is that we love our dogs," Gorin said. "Another thing that is really clear is that this issue is divisive."

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