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Marinette Council Refers Dog Issue Back To Parks

Issue Date: July 11, 2019

The City of Marinette Common Council chambers was filled with approximately 50 residents on Tuesday, July 9 for a public hearing if a four story condominium unit should be allowed to be constructed on Cleveland Ave., where the old knitting mill was located and for public comment on whether or not if dogs should be allowed in City Parks. Concerns were raised on one or both of the two open discussions.

City resident Jack Glonek said, "The lack of adequate parking will result in overwhelming the side streets. I am asking the Council to think about limiting the size of the building".

Resident Patti DeWitt then spoke saying, "I disagree with the four stories, it is too high. "We moved into the city and evaluated a good area to live in looking at lighting, low noise level and a good residential neighborhood, so that is why we chose where we are now. I live in this residential area and don't know how this will affect the property values, it could go up or it could go down and that is not good if it goes down. It also would affect green space, garbage pickup, snowplowing, lighting and more. The lighting is going to be abundant with a new building and what type of parking are they going to have"?

A third resident, Donna Madsen stated, "There will be a traffic and parking issues, I do not agree with a four story building, this is a residential area. Four stories is just too much for the area. I want you to think about if it was in your neighborhood, would you like that"?

The Council meeting followed the Public Hearing, opening with public comment from several residents voicing their concerns about closing parks to dogs.

Shannon Bennett said, "I spoke to numerous people that were not responsible for the feces left behind in the park but was left behind by irresponsible dog owners and it now becomes an issue that warrants action. I don't want to see dogs banned from the parks, but don't want to see the kids step in feces either. Suggestion would be to fence in the playground area and not allow dogs in that section, enforce the leash law, add canisters with disposable clean up bags at the entrances to the parks with garbage cans nearby and post signs announcing the responsibility of the dog owner to pickup after their dog. Public awareness and taking steps forward to make dog owners responsible is the answer. It is a negative for campers coming into the city to not allow dogs. For the most part there are more responsible dog owners than irresponsible dog owners. Bottom line is we need more signage, dispensers and Animal Control to get the point across".

Resident Pete Thyne, then commented, "I ask you to vote no to banning dogs from Parks. I have been an avid user of City Park for 14 years, walking my dog daily, three times per day. What I see to be the most disturbing to me is syringes and people dropping off garbage and old tires. Why does City Park have to suffer when it may be another park where the issue is? We need more signage and garbage containers especially on the trails".

Thyne continued, "They should be talking about banning geese in parks. We lost a precious resource, Stephenson Island due to goose droppings and will be losing Red Arrow as well". "No pun intended, but You are barking up the wrong tree".

Rochelle Anderson representing Mighty Pet then spoke, saying, "If closing the Parks to dogs, you are mostly punishing the responsible dog owners for the irresponsibility of a few people. Most dog owners are responsible for cleaning up their dogs mess. We need to make it a social norm to follow the rules".

Elaine Sevener then spoke, saying, "We have dogs and share your frustration. There are positive solutions to the situation and we need to come up with solutions. Pets are part of a family. We need to make people aware of the fines involved. This hasn't been approached enough, you have a good start, but more can be done. We need a bigger effort with connecting with the Dog Academy, Pet Stores, Facebook Social Media of what we want to see in our City. I applaud you for doing something but banning is not an option. Some cities are using dogs to keep birds away from beaches. I think we can find a solution that's creative instead of banning them". Greg Sevener interjected and said, "I would be willing to be an undercover to approach those that are irresponsible and not picking up their dogs droppings".

Marinette resident, Jerry Hansen, one of the founders of the TOP dog park that is opening in approximately two weeks, stated, "This is a people problem, we are not going to control it 100% but we can do the best we can and try to keep it under control. You can have citizens to help patrol the parks, encourage responsible dog owners to go to the parks and the dogs will also help to control the goose situation. I have researched areas similar in size to Marinette including Egg Harbor, Waupaca, Antigo, Tomahawk and Sturgeon Bay and all of these places have dog parks and not a one of them have any major issues. Marinette should visit these off leash dog parks".

Hansen continued with, "We have wonderful resources and invite people to come here, if we ban dogs from the parks, it will be hard to get people to visit and stay here. I see a far greater problem if we ban the dogs, but instead should work together to solve the 'people problem' and move this back to Parks and Rec and not complain too much but work on a solution".

Jennifer Berry said, "It is not fair to people who walk their dogs and are responsible. I am more than willing to hand out disposal bags if I have to. It is not fair to those who abide by the rules". Jenny Gerts also commented, "I will pick up other dogs messes as well and if there is anything I can do, I would be happy to help"

The final speaker of the evening in support of not banning dogs from parks was, Kathy Korshak". She said, "By being an animal lover, I am not against dogs, but it is about the owners, they are the ones that are irresponsible. By confronting an irresponsible dog owner, they are going to get irrate and that is not going to help. If a fence is put up around a playground then it has to be put up on the beaches as well, because kids play on beaches all the time".

Korshak continued with, "Put signs out stating the $400 fine and dogs have to be on a leash. We need signage and for a while patrol more often. Give offenders a warning and if that doesn't work then give them the $400 fine. Why have ordinances if we don't enforce them, if we can't enforce them what good are they? I can count numerous people letting their dog do their duty without picking up after them".

After all the public comment, Mayor Steve Genisot said, "This was brought to Council from the Parks and Rec committee and the Council has been fully engaged. I trust they will make the right decision".

Alderperson, Dorothy Kowalski said, "I wouldn't be comfortable myself banning the park. I think our intent was to get it out to the community for help and suggestions and the ideas that were brought here tonight are very workable".

Alderperson Rick Polzin then spoke, "I received several calls about the ordinance and we are trying to find a solution to this issue and to serve both sides. I support the idea of more signage, stations baggies and garbage cans and also using volunteerism to spread the message. I think we should table the ordinance to let people help. We are looking for communication, more ideas and to be proactive". Alderpersons Wally Hitt and Peter Noppenberg also both agreed to table the ordinance and refer it back to the Parks and Rec committee.

Alderperson John Marx said, "I have been around for quite a few year and this subject comes up every few years and we need to get more involve and come up with good solutions. I agree with tabling and come up with a fair solution. I don't want to penalize the responsible owners for the 10% that are the irresponsible ones. Maybe we say no dogs allowed in parks unless under a firm lease and not an electronic leash.

Alderperson Ken Keller commented, "There has been a big improvement lately and to restrict dogs from the park would be ludicrous especially when we are trying to bring people to the City. Signage and enforcement is what I have requested from the beginning, but enforcement is not just a one person job. We can possibly get free signs from the DNR.

After Council discussions, no action was taken and it will be sent back to the Parks and Rec Committee for discussion at their next meeting.

The meeting then shifted back to the Public Hearing for the discussion of the four story condominium with Alderperson Polzin recusing himself due to Brian Polzin, being his son and the one requesting the proposed adoption of an amendment for the comprehensive plan from traditional residential to mixed residential and zoning amendment from single and two family residential zoning to mixed use commercial residential zoning district.

City Attorney Jonathon Sbar stated, the first ordinance is to amend the comprehensive plan to change from traditional residential to mixed use residential so they can have a small retail or coffee shop in the complex.

Brian Peters of Bayland Building proceeded to explain the building will be four stories high with 24,000 square feet with adequate parking for the entire development. Every facet will be approved and looked at. The height of the building will be approximately 50 feet.

Noppenberg then asked, "Why condominiums verses apartments? We have more contract workers that would be more apt to rent an apartment then buy a condo. Condos have about a 20% less retail value than single family homes. Marinette is one of the poorest counties in the state. Multi unit structures like this are usually found in larger cities".

Alderperson Jason Flatt then stated, "Under current zoning, the limit is 25 feet or 2-1/2 story buildings and this one will be 50 feet plus and 4 stories.

Brian Polzin then stated "Four floor versus two floors, the site conditions and development site doesn't define whether it is two, three or four floors. The return on investment (ROI) is greater and it is not viable to build a two story".

Flatt then asked, "Why is the whole block being rezoned"? Sbar answered, "This is a phase project and it is cumbersome to rezone for each phase".

Kowalski said, "My thought is, it is closer and parallel to Wells Street and would rather look at that building versus a storage building that is there".

Mayor Genisot addressed Council saying, "Council need to now decided if you want a four story building or not".

Marx said, "I think it will be a great enhancement over what was there".

At that point, Council voted to proceed with adoption of the Comprehensive plan and change from traditional residential to mixed residential with Noppenberg and Flatt opposed. They then immediately approved the zoning amendment from a two family residential zoning district to a mixed use commercial residential zoning district again with Noppenberg and Flatt opposed.

Sbar then stated the next step will be to approve the conditional use permit at a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 3:30 p.m.


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