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Residents question planned $27.5 million animal shelter

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Shelter could be built at Adams County Fairgrounds

By Andrea Tritschler

Some neighbors have concerns about a planned $27.5 million animal shelter and dog park and some other proposed changes at the Adams County Fairgrounds at 9755 Henderson Road.

About 50 residents attended a meeting at the Waymire Dome at the fairgrounds, formally called the Adams County Regional Park, to express their concerns on Tuesday, April 4. The new shelter and dog park is in the county’s 2017 Parks and Open Space Master Plan.

“We already have a working facility,” said Jane Schindler, a neighbor to the fairgrounds property. “It was built in 2002 and upgraded in 2005, and now it’s obsolete?”

Studies at the current shelter – a retrofitted warehouse at 10705 Fulton St. – show it would cost about the same to upgrade the current facility as to build a new facility, said Jim Pfeiffer, architect for the project. But building new infrastructure for the new shelter would benefit the regional park, and it would be more convenient for residents to access, Pfeiffer said.

There are no sidewalks at the current shelter, making it hard to take dogs out for walks, said Stephanie Wilde, director of the Adams County Animal Shelter. Many of the animals there are kept kenneled 24/7, she said.

“The current shelter is in a really tough location,” Wilde said. “It’s in an industrial area, sandwiched along railroad tracks, a crane and chemical plant. “It’s not a people- or pet-friendly place” 

Of the planned $27.5 million budget for the animal shelter and dog park, $22 million is planned building cost and the other $5.5 million is devoted to infrastructure costs, Pfeiffer said.

Schindler said she has lived on Riverdale Road for more than 40 years. She worries that increased traffic would disrupt the historic nature of the road.

“We were told they looked at many different locations based on criteria, but where else were they looking?” Schindler said. “They wouldn’t tell us what else was considered.”

Resident Gary Priola questioned why county officials did not consider an 11-acre parcel near 136th Avenue and the South Platte River that he thought could accommodate a 45,000-square-foot shelter.

“All the amenities are there, and it would raise it off the flood plain,” Priola said. “I was told that’s where it was going to be.”

It wasn’t until February that neighbors found out that the shelter might be built closer to home, Priola said. Many of their concerns relate to noise and wanting to conserve open space and agriculture, which they say would happen with the new plan.

Wilde said county officials are trying to use the community input received in the past to make decisions, and modern animal shelters are built to control noise levels.

“We had a set list of criteria from what we know and from community engagement,” Wilde said. “We looked at impact.”

The Adams County Animal Shelter takes in 6,000 stray, abandoned and neglected animals a year. It provides vaccinations, medications and microchips for dogs and cats. It also serves as the area’s emergency shelter, taking in other animals and reptiles.

When animals don’t get adopted they remain at shelters longer, which means they are more likely to get sick or diseased, which requires medication at the cost of the shelter.

The current shelter has open ceilings, which makes it hard to control airborne disease, according to Wilde

“High-stress, high-disease shelters prevent adoptions and rates drop, raising the costs of the shelter,” Wilde said. ”It’s a public health and safety issue. “

But those who spoke at the meeting said they aren’t as concerned by the problems of the current shelter as making sure agricultural preservation continues at the fairgrounds.

Ken and Cheryl McIntosh, who own a dairy farm south of 120th Avenue, sold land to the county to remain open under a conservation easement. They said they’re irritated that the land may be developed rather than stay undeveloped. 

Gloria Cundall, director of the Good Luck 4-H Club, had similar thoughts.

“It’s inconsistent,” Cundall said. “Take what we have and make it better. Don’t redesign it. Adams County needs to support Adams County.”

 

The county’s animal shelter and dog park plan are part of the larger Regional Park Master Plan update. Every few years, county officials said they adjust the master plan to reflect the community’s changing needs.

 

The new master plan includes some major changes and upgrades:

-       a new indoor arena

-       moving the county fair grandstands to the south of the property

-       an RV camping park

-       an “adventure park” for children and adults

-       tent camping facilities

-       moving the museum and other administration buildings to the south

-       new trails

-       new covered stall areas

-       new stormwater systems

-       more connections between the north and south areas of the fairgrounds

-       agricultural spaces

-       increased parking and alternative road access

 

Multiple designs by firm Designworks were presented to residents during an input meeting on April 4. Although designs aren’t final, residents expressed discontent with some of the changes when polled by officials.

Almost 40 percent of those in attendance said they didn’t care for either of the two options presented and wanted to see more agricultural uses, including “agritourism” options. The county plans to look at the feedback and re-work some of the design elements. Cost estimates for the upgrades were not immediately made available to the press.