Northampton boards approve dog park on Glendale Road

  • Rachel Loeffler, landscape architect with Berkshire Design Group, speaks at Thursday’s Northampton Planning Board meeting. GAZETTE STAFF/BERA DUNAU

  • Northampton City Councilor Marianne LaBarge speaks at Thursday’s Planning Board meeting regarding a proposed dog park off Glendale Road. GAZETTE STAFF/BERA DUNAU

Friday, October 13, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — The proposed Pioneer Valley Waggin’ Trails dog park won approval with conditions from both the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board on Thursday, despite opposition and concern from some neighbors.

The Department of Public Works also signed off on the project’s stormwater plan Thursday.

The park would be sited on Glendale Road on an approximately 49-acre property that formerly contained a gravel pit. Sarah Schatz, the person putting forward the business plans, would be the owner of the park, which would consist of 18 acres where members could walk their dogs off-leash on trails, in addition to such amenities as a dog pond, a dune area for the dogs to play in, and an office with a washing station. The area for the dogs would be fenced in.

Access to the park will be restricted to paying patrons. Memberships will cost $360 a year and cover two dogs. People can also pay $40 month or $10 a day. People on WIC/SNAP, retirees, and students will get to purchase memberships for $300 a year.

A 2-acre portion of the land would also be sold for a three-house cluster development.

Schatz has owned Sarah’s Pet Services, a dog-walking service, since 2000. She also met her $20,000 crowdfunding goal for the project on Thursday.

Most of the questions and objections at the Conservation Commission’s meeting from those on Glendale Road revolved around water issues, particularly concerning the proposed clay-lined pond, and how it might affect runoff.

Most of the complaints at the Planning Board centered on traffic issues on Glendale Road, and concerns that the development would make it worse.

“Any improvement to Glendale Road would be appreciated,” said Marcia Fellows.

Issues of the viability of the business, as well as limiting the number of members in the dog park, were also raised.

Another key complaint was the concern that not enough people had been notified about the development, on the grounds that it affected more than the abutters. Indeed, Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne LaBarge asked the City Council to continue the meeting, so that there could be more public input.

This suggestion was rejected on the advice of Senior Land Planner/Permits Manager Carolyn Misch, who said a continuance had to be based on not having enough information on issues within the hearing.

Misch also confirmed that all legal notifications pertaining to the project had been fulfilled.

Although most of the people who spoke at the well-attended Planning Board meeting had concerns about Waggin’ Trails, some also spoke in defense of the park, and expressed excitement about the service it would provide.

Going over the complaints, board member Mark Sullivan expressed his sympathy, but said most of them, including concerns about traffic and the road, were not under the purview of the Planning Board.

“The concerns are valid but they’re not concerns that we can rule on,” he said.

Both the Conservation Commission and the Planning Board ended up approving the proposals before them with conditions, with no dissenting votes.

One of the conditions that was attached to the Conservation Commission’s approval was that three growing seasons’ worth of photos be taken so that it could be demonstrated that the improvements to the property had been maintained.

One of the conditions that the Planning Board attached, meanwhile, was that no events be allowed on the property, something that Schatz indicated was acceptable.

“I literally have no events planned,” she said.

Following the Planning Board’s vote, Schatz said she didn’t think any more approvals were needed from the city. She also said she had the necessary financing to close on the property.

One of the primary opponents of the park is Marlene Pearson, who spoke at both meetings and made a concerted effort to make her fellow residents aware of the meeting.

In a statement given to the Gazette following the approvals, she criticized the project as an exclusive, membership-only, for-profit business that nobody in her neighborhood could afford to use.

“This might be a dog friendly park, but it certainly isn’t people friendly,” she wrote.

Schatz said memberships would be free to residents of Brisson Drive and Glendale Road for the first two years, and that discounted membership would be available two them after that.

Both Schatz and LaBarge will hold a meeting at city hall on Oct. 20 at 6 p..m. on the second floor of the building for residents to learn about and collaborate with Waggin’ Trails.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com