Sextiped Valley: The sound or the fury?
I was at the Glenwood City Council hearing on June 2 at which a group of worried residents appealed a Planning and Zoning ruling allowing two longtime local veterinarians to convert an existing commercial building into a pet boarding facility, with the inspired name of Dog Holliday’s. The location is zoned commercial/residential, and has a mix of light industry, offices, restaurants, a vet clinic and several condominium complexes.
Assuming that approval of the 30-animal facility would result in constant and severe noise and odor disturbance and a drop in property values, some residents appealed on the grounds that the “kennel,” as they insisted on calling it, was an inappropriate use of the land.
There is almost nothing Glenwood Springs won’t do, it seems, to promote the city as a prime tourist destination, with many amenities for vacationing families. Yet, for years, it has staunchly resisted catering to the portion of visiting families that include dogs – even as that percentage has doubled in the last 10 years. According to a 2013-14 national survey, one-third of vacationing families take their dogs along, and 6 percent travel with their cats. Glenwood now has 14 motels, hotels and B&Bs that accept pets, and there are many outdoor activities that they can share.
But there are even more where dogs are not welcome. To enable their human family to enjoy all the attractions that draw them here, some accommodation must be made for the pets. Families who travel with their dogs are often amazed that our town has no multiservice facility with overnight capacity that is conveniently located and state of the art. Other tourist meccas have had them for many years, as pets have evolved into full members for over 95 percent of families with them.
Having been involved in the development of these services, I know that it is not only possible but relatively easy to meet these needs without negative impacts on surrounding neighborhoods. World-class architecture firms specialize in pet resorts designed to eliminate the noise and frustration that cause stress, and facilitate calm, pleasurable activities and restful retreats for the guests. Play group managers know how to keep the arousal level well below the threshold of excitability that leads to noise, competitive behavior and fights, ensuring the dogs a calm, pleasurable environment — and the neighbors a peaceful residential ambience.
If ever there was a dispute in which everyone’s interests were identical, this is it: a quiet neighborhood, a much-needed amenity for visitors to our town and a successful new business to serve them. Yet the offering of new information failed to move the appellants’ certainty of their assumptions. They didn’t appear to want to be reassured that their concerns were being addressed at every stage by both the business owners and the city.
I’ve been a certified mediator for many years. This process strives for non-coercive, win-win conflict resolution, and for it to succeed, parties must do two things: first, suspend their disbelief in the possibility of change. And then, focus on possible solutions and let go of the desire to win.
In disputes over barking dogs, I’ve seen how relatively easily the problem can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction once this shift occurs. With the help of a mediator and a dog trainer, you can progress from a deadlocked “that dog never shuts up and it’s driving me nuts – it has to go” versus “I’ll never give up my dog!” to determining the specifics of the situation and making the right interventions.
About 99 percent of the furor over all barking dog issues could be eliminated if everyone accepted the fact that dogs are here to stay and developed effective conflict resolution and behavior-correcting strategies to deal with their negative impacts – as we do about children, traffic and other sources of social friction. Every HOA ought to have a mediator and a dog trainer on retainer to immediately and effectively address sources of discomfort before they become habitual, and before those affected get too dug in to defending their positions and grievances.
Come to think of it, might this not be a good approach to conflicts of all kinds?
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.