Planning Board has no big issues with using vacant city land in South End for a dog park

LACONIA — Despite the concerns of one abutter, the Planning Board expressed no major misgivings when Happy Tails Dog Park of Belmont presented its plans for a dog park on city-owned property in the South End for a design review last night.
Brie Elliott, president of Happy Tails, a nonprofit corporation, told the board that the organization has prepared a plan to build the park on part of a 25-acre rectangular tract located between the end of Spruce Street and Growtth Road. The city purchased the land in 1976 with a Land, Water, Conservation grant from the federal government, which restricts the property to recreational uses.
Elliott said that Happy Tails seeks to lease four or five acres at the southeast end of the property to house a parking area, access paths and two fenced dog parks, one of 1.3 acres divided in half for small and large dogs and another 40 feet by 20 feet for puppies. She said that the park would be larger than most dog parks in the state and the play pen for puppies would be unique.
The park would be approximately 640 feet from the nearest residence, but closer to Scotia Technology at the foot of Growtth Road, in the Lakes Industrial Park. However, Elliott said that the hours when the park was likely to be most heavily used would not coincide with the workday at the plant.
Elliott explained that there are nine urban dog parks in the state — in Concord, Portsmouth, Hooksett, Manchester, Derry, Rochester, Nashua, Conway and Dover — seven of them on municipal property, but only four managed by the municipality. Happy Tails would ask to lease the land at no charge while itself bearing all the costs of constructing, managing and maintaining the dog park, including the insurance required to indemnify the city. The agreement would run for five years, after which the city would have the option to either renew or cancel the lease or assume management of the dog park. The agreement between the city of Manchester and the Manchester Dog Park Association, she suggested, could serve as a model for Laconia.
Brian Gilbert of Edwards Street told the board that he owns a 10 acre lot abutting the proposed dog park, which is zoned for residential use. He feared that if the park is approved the value of the property and the opportunity to develop it would be diminished. He also expected to become "the receptor of an awful lot of barking."
Gilbert said he believed there is a dog park at the New Hampshire Humane Society on Meredith Center Road and suggested "use that. I think you're going to ruin this property by letting this happen."
After the meeting Elliott spoke with Gilbert, explaining that Humane Society chose not to open a dog park because it preferred to pursue other priorities and not bear the cost of insurance.
Elliott said that the Parks and Recreation Commission had granted "conceptual approval" to the project and that she intends to present the plan to the City Council when it meets on July 22. If the proposal is welcomed a fully engineered site plan would be prepared for the final approval of the Planning Board and Parks and Recreation Commission and an agreement drafted for the City Council.