West Valley wins dog park battle

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Residents of West Valley won the dogfight with the town Monday night after council voted to investigate an alternate area for an off-leash dog park.

The decision directed town administration to draft a new plan for design and cost options to build an off-leash dog park in the pipeline corridor on the south side of Quigley Drive.

Homeowners backing onto the eight-acre West Valley site where the $330,000 dog park was to be built have for months been protesting the town’s plan, citing numerous concerns about how the new amenity might impact their homes and quality of life.

Over the past two months, approximately 25 residents opposed to the park inundated council with complaints, ranging from increased noise and traffic to a reduction in property values.

The opposition swayed council to add the off-leash park, which many thought was a done deal under the town’s master plan, to Monday’s council agenda as an impromptu item.

“I found myself agreeing with enough of the comments that it’s not an appropriate spot for an off-leash dog park,” Mayor Ivan Brooker said to kick off discussion.

Lindsay Stickel, a West Valley resident who was opposed to the plan, said she was pleasantly surprised by council’s decision.

“We are very appreciative that council is taking into consideration the feed back we’ve given them and from our neighbors,” she said.

“We’re not opposed to the dog park, it’s the location. Hopefully it can be something the whole community can agree on.”

While some councillors found many of the concerns, such as decreases in property value, speculative, they all shared similar reservations over safety issues such as increased traffic.

Coun. Jeff Toews agreed with residents who were upset because they were unaware of the dog park plans when they bought their properties. Toews said people should know what to expect when purchasing homes in an area.

Coun. Mary Lou Eckmeier said council’s decision illustrates why it is important for people to be involved in the political and planning process.

“I am grateful people spoke and we had the chance to make changes,” she said, echoing Coun. Tara McFadden’s point that council has a responsibility to represent the entire community.

Toews was also happy to see the involvement but expressed disappointment that many letters he received were abusive, offensive, and disparaging to people in the community which he called inappropriate.

Cost of the project, which is coming from development offsite levy reserves, was a point of contention for Coun. Morgan Nagel, who is hopeful the new plan will have a cheaper price tag.

“I have always said that $330,000 is an insane amount for a dog park,” he said.

Jim Uffelman, an advocate for the West Valley location, said he is disappointed council buckled under the pressure of a few citizens, who he said wrongly believe their ownership extends to public lands.

He added five acres of land near the highway is not appropriate for a dog park.

“It’s a much smaller area and it introduces congestion in an already congested area,” he said.

“It magnifies all the issues they talked about in the private area.”

Administration will now draft a design plan for a new dog park that will run between Quigley Drive and West Rock Road along Highway 22, behind Tim Hortons. Council’s direction includes speaking with business owners in the area, investigating incorporating the existing pathway and using the West Rock parking lot.

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Cochrane Eagle