GARRETT — Debra Garcia had a bone to pick up with a neighbor’s dog-sitting business and brought her complaint to the Garrett Common Council Tuesday.
Garcia, who lives in the 200 block of South Harrison Street, described the ongoing issue of having upwards of two dozen dogs in an unfenced yard next door as “homeowner purgatory — and it just keeps on getting worse and worse,” due to noise, the dogs relieving themselves on her property, and customers using her driveway as a drop-off and pick-up site for their pets.
Garcia lives at the intersection of Houston and Harrison streets where many people walk their dogs all the time.
“I don’t have a problem with dogs going to the bathroom on my property, not a big deal, but when it’s my neighbor and they have these dogs constantly, it’s just too much.
“I bought a home in a nice, quiet area, zoned as residential, with the expectation of enjoying my home. I am a person who likes to mind my own business, I am not a busybody.
“(The dogs) have been cruelly treated. People are paying good money to have them come,” she added.
Garcia said she constructed a tall wooden fence between the properties and set it back 25 feet inside her property line, but the dogs have been seen using the area.
Garcia said trying to speak to the homeowner “does no good” and has been unresponsive to the city code officer who has followed up on complaints.
Garcia told council members the neighbor advertised her business as a large, spacious home with fenced-in yard big enough to accommodate as many as 25 dogs.
The yard currently has two vehicles, a motorcycle, grill and similar items allowing little room “for one dog, let alone 25 that need to relieve themselves and get exercise,” she said. “The dogs are constantly on my property.” Garcia said she has taken some 20 videos of the dogs in her yard.
She asked for guidance from the council regarding how home businesses are run and well as information on city codes for respecting the rights of neighbors.
“We need some regulations. I get it that people have a right to have home businesses — but I have a right as a homeowner, too, to have my property not violated constantly.”
Garcia said she was advised by the police to hire a lawyer and get a non-contact protection order.
“I don’t understand why the city can’t put some kind of something in place so that she understands. I just hope somebody can do something to help the situation,” Garcia said.
Police Chief Gerald Kline said officers have responded to complaints at the site in the past, noting owners are required to keep pets on their own properties.
Council members Amanda Charles and Bobby Diederich both said they were not aware of the situation.
City Planner Milton Otero said the situation has been an ongoing problem as the site is neither large or spacious, nor has a fenced-in yard that provides enough space to accommodate dozens of dogs.
Any land use ordinance must first come before the Plan Commission and then taken to the city council for approval. The current home business ordinance has been in place for more than 20 years with no changes, he added.
Diederich suggested city leaders, code enforcement and police meet to find a situation to alleviate the problem and revisit current codes.
After attending an earlier meeting of the Garrett Board of Works, Mark Andrews of the 400 block of South Peters Street told council members a situation regarding creation of an outdoor eating area at LaLos Mexican Restaurant in the 100 block of North Peters Street would not create a parking issue if the four spaces were removed and the sidewalk extended into the street.
Board of Works members Tom Kleeman and Mayor Todd Fiandt were not in favor of a plan submitted by the restaurant owner to remove the parking stalls, cut out the asphalt and create a new 5-foot wide concrete path around the structure to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act standard.
Andrews noted two new parking lots downtown, with the one on Franklin Street costing $118,000 alone, should offer plenty of parking for customers, and the low volume of usage of that block on North Peters Street could create a bump out for not much money.
Andrews also spoke out that ADA corners in town have been left unfinished due to concrete contractor issues.
“Don’t start if you can’t finish in 3-4 days,” he said.
Andrews complimented the Garrett Police Department and specifically Officer Amanda Thomas for being friendly and engaging with the crowd during Garrett Heritage Days.