Oskaloosa City Council split on decision to deny kennel
by Dennis Sharkey
The city of Oskaloosa Council denied a homeowner a permit for a dog kennel on a split decision that left some council members with heavy hearts.
Councilman Dale Mooney and Gary Bryant both supported a motion that would have allowed a permit for Brian Ledbetter to operate a five-dog kennel for his personal dogs.
However, their votes were outweighed by John Norman, Emily Malsbury and Kathy Griffin.
All three had different reasons for denying the permit but Griffin and Malsbury both expressed frustration with the decision. Griffin went as far to say that Oskaloosa’s ordinance concerning animals is the strictest she has ever seen.
“It breaks my heart,” Griffin said. “I had a hard time making a decision. When I made that decision I cut my own throat. I totally understand.
“Pets are people’s kids,” Griffin added. “I think it’s harsh.”
Griffin’s comments came well after a public hearing where the vote to deny the permit was 3-2.
During the hearing for the permit Ledbetter said that he owned four hunting dogs and his girlfriend’s English Mastiff.
He said some of the dogs are older and that he does not plan to replace the dogs as they pass off. He said his plan was to get down to two dogs because the cost of feeding has become so expensive.
Ledbetter does not want to get rid of any of the animals. He became emotional during the hearing. He told the council how much his animals meant to him and acted distraught about what he was going to do.
The kennel was constructed in December after Ledbetter had to move the animals from a friend’s farm that was lost.
Ledbetter moved to town two years ago onto property owned by relatives on Hamilton Street. Originally he had applied for a building permit for a garage/shop next to the kennel but those plans were put on hold when the situation with the animals developed.
Malsbury told Ledbetter during the hearing that she was confused by his actual intent.
“It seemed like you were building a kennel but applying for a shop,” Malsbury said. “I don’t know if that was your intent or not but it seems like it.”
Malsbury told Ledbetter that she was a no vote because more than one of his neighbors complained.
Three neighbors testified in support for the permit and said the dogs do not bother them. Another resident in attendance objected.
Bryant said it appeared to him that Ledbetter had been caught by surprise by the city’s ordinance that allows residents only two animals.
“Sounds pretty much like an honest mistake,” Bryant said.
Mooney, who made the motion for approval, wanted to move forward with a set of conditions.
Norman said he was voting no because the kennel did not fit into the city’s master plan.
“If we start deviating from that we don’t have a master plan,” Norman said.
Ledbetter objected and said he doesn’t believe any development near his house is going to occur soon.
Griffin also cited the master plan and the fact that his lot was a corner lot.
Although Griffin voted against the permit her opinions after the hearing seemed to side with Ledbetter.
Malsbury also said she did not want to vote against the permit. Malsbury, who is a real estate agent, said she recently had a resident sell his house in town because of the city’s pet ordinance.
“We’ve had people sell houses here because of the dog and cat policy,” Malsbury said.
Griffin admitted openly that she has thoughts of selling her house because of the ordinance.
During the hearing Ledbetter took issue with Griffin violating the ordinance herself. She acknowledged the violation and said she already has gotten rid of one animal because of the ordinance.
“You should be responsible for taking care of your own,” Griffin said. “You need to act on it because this is a community for everybody.”
Griffin said she currently has two puppies and has to make a decision about which one to keep.
“I would so put my house up for sale,” Griffin said in a frustrated tone. “I’m not kidding you.”
“You are not alone,” Malsbury said. “You would not be the first.”
Griffin said the ordinance needs to be changed but did not suggest any action.
“What are you going to do?” Griffin said. “Do I think it needs changed? Yes.”
Having some sympathy for Ledbetter the council voted unanimously to give him six months to alleviate the problem.
The city has no appeal process in their city ordinance according to City Attorney Mike Hayes. He said if Ledbetter wants to appeal he will have to file a lawsuit in Jefferson County District Court.
In other actions:
• City Engineer Joe McAfee recommended close out of the city wide sewer project. After review of complaints McAfee said there were no real problems that could be attributed to the contractor.
McAfee said there were some grass issues but contractors cannot be held accountable for grass after seeding.
• McAfee said he will begin work on a design for a clear plexiglass window that can be installed on the railing of the ramp in the pool. Some parents have raised concerns about children getting caught under the railing.
• The city hired a new auditing firm. The firm will also help the city develop a budget.
The new firm will be ATC Accounting of Pratt.
• Bryant reported that the city’s public works employees will start working some overtime hours on the weekends. He said the amount of work the crews are spending on weekends is adding up to a full day during the week when other duties need to be performed.
• City Clerk Patty Hamm reported that the city is still searching for a new treasurer. The position is about 15 hours a week.
• The city will begin letting bids for construction of a new police station. The new station will be located in the back basement area of the old Harvey’s Hardware building. The city is leasing the area from the Jefferson County Memorial Hospital Foundation for $1 a year for a five year period.
• Griffin reported that the pool open house was a success with more than 200 residents in attendance. She said at least 100 swimmers are coming to the pool on sunny days and that swimming lessons are filling up.
• Norman reported that many of the problem properties with concern to grass and weed issues are not such a problem this year. He said many of the properties are being mowed without being told including some bank owned properties.
• Hamm reported that Stinky’s Bar and Grill did not submit permit paperwork into the state in enough time to have an outdoor beer garden for Old Settlers’ Reunion.
However, there will be an outdoor beer garden on Delaware Street between Jefferson and Washington streets. The beer garden will be operated by Free State Brewery of Lawrence.
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