It was a full house on Tuesday as the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors voted to move ahead and purchase property for the future site of the Western Slope Animal Shelter.
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Sporting an existing building as well as acreage for livestock, the board authorized spending $1.86 million for the 4.73-acre site at 6425 Capitol Avenue in Diamond Springs. Located in an existing industrial park, three sides of the property abut industrial uses with a residential subdivision to the west.
The total project budget for the shelter is $5.7 million, including the purchase price of the property.
The issue drew a large audience of supporters for the proposal as well as those who agree there’s a need for a new shelter but not at the proposed site, with most of those opposed being residents of the Springwood subdivision.
Providing an overview of plans for the site were architect Charlie Downs of Annova-Nexis, Project Manager Brent Collins, and Henry Brzezinski, chief of Animal Services. They reported they had looked at more than 100 properties, negotiated on six and then whittled that number down to one.
Downs promised to build a state-of-the-art facility that would minimize noise, odor and animal behavior problems. Separate areas would be designed for those surrendering or coming to pick up their animals from those who come to adopt, in order to create a memorable experience.
Discussing animal control services, Brzezinski noted that his department handles around 3,000 animals a year. While they deal with some livestock cases, they are limited in number. Last year they only took in 28 livestock who stayed an average of less than four days. Of that number, 16 were horses and half were impounded on site and sent to foster families for care. The department also does a lot of educational programs on caring for animals, he said, plus helps rescue animals during disasters, conducts investigations of cruelty, provides licensing services, and helps resolve disputes between neighbors involving animals.
Brzezinski said the county’s animal shelter meets Humane Society industry standards and his staff are very diligent about removing waste and using safe insect control.
“Consolidation will help our operations because we are currently scattered among three locations,” he said. “The new location will make us more efficient and help us adopt out more animals.”
When asked about how long the new shelter would be good for, Brzezinski estimated it would enable the county to provide animal care services for the next 50 years.
Not here, plea residents
However, despite these presentations, not everyone in the audience was convinced that this was the best location for the new animal shelter or that potential problems would be mitigated.
John Staley, who lives in Springwood, said he supported the idea of a new shelter but claimed the odors and noises from the shelter would affect his property and the animal wastes would attract insects and rodents, which he said violated the county’s ordinances.
“If there is no odor, no dust, no glare, no noise, no waste material then our new neighbors are welcomed with open arms,” he said. But Staley doubted the shelter would be able to comply with the county’s own ordinances.
Laurel Stroud, who also lives in Springwood, said she was primarily concerned about how the county went about selecting the site, claiming Diamond Springs had become a dumping ground for projects like these as the county searched for the cheapest deal it could get. She listed a number of concerns, saying the area for the shelter was too small, the draft EIR was a sham, and there was little concern for the public good.
“You owe us much better than this,” she said.
Other residents worried about the glare from lights at the shelter, the potential for flooding and how it would affect their quality of life.
However, the proposal also drew accolades from animal welfare groups whose members arrived in droves for the hearing.
Charlene Welty, president of PAWED (People for Animal Welfare in El Dorado County) said she thought the site was excellent and it met all their requirements. While acknowledging residents’ concerns, she assured those in the audience that the facility would be a good neighbor.
Barbara Lee of the Animal Shelter Coalition for El Dorado County, also spoke favorably of the purchase as did Dr. Lisa S. Couper, a local vet and board member of PAWED. She said the shelter would protect people as well as ensure the welfare of animals.
Discussion of the concerns raised by residents had the architect promising to look again at mitigating issues like runoff and treatment of waste material.
That discussion prompted a comment by County Counsel Ed Knapp who said that zoning ordinances don’t apply to the county; nonetheless, the county chooses to self-impose standards on itself.
Amid groans from the audience, staff and the board affirmed that the same standards that apply to any developer in an industrial zone will be followed by the county.
With those issues set aside, the board voted unanimously to proceed with purchasing the property along with issuing a negative declaration on the project.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter