It is always the children who are hurt the most when their elders argue. A crying child rushed out of the Unified Government Commission meeting tonight at City Hall as commissioners discussed taking two of the family’s dogs away.
The child’s father explained to the commission that the family had moved here from another city in Kansas last August to help take care of his elderly mother. The family has four dogs at the Kansas City, Kan., residential address, when only two are allowed, and so they required a special use permit to keep them.
“I had to uproot my kids to move here, and I really do not want to tell my children I would have to get rid of their pets,” the man with the dogs told the commission. The dogs in question are small, one Shih Tzu and three Chihuahua mixes.
A feud with nearby neighbors had resulted in complaints being made to the police and to code enforcement about barking dogs and other issues. The family claimed the dogs were not loud. But a neighbor disagreed. Both the man and his neighbor called each other untruthful at the UG meeting.
The child’s father said his family has been subjected to something bordering on harassment over their dogs and other property issues. He said the feud went back to his mother’s time, before he moved back here. The neighbor also had complained about his mother’s one dog. He said the neighbors even called truancy officers when his children were home from school on a day that school was out.
The neighbor, however, said his bedroom was only about 11 feet away from the family’s barking dogs. He said the dogs made more noise than the family admitted. He said he had post-traumatic stress disorder and the barking dogs had adversely affected his health, leading to more stress. His medication had to be increased, he said. “I can’t stand it,” he told the commission.
The UG Commission might have been expected to approve the special use permit at tonight’s planning and zoning meeting, as it usually upholds most of the items that are coming from the Planning Commission. The family’s special use permit request had received the unanimous approval of the UG Planning Commission, with several stipulations, before coming to the UG Commission level. But tonight, the UG Commission went its own way.
After hearing the neighbors complain about each other, Commissioner Mark Holland said he was sympathetic to the fact that the neighbor had lived there a long time, and he had a right to live in a neighborhood where residents had only two dogs each. If all the neighbors agreed that the family could have four dogs, he would be OK with it, but they were not all in agreement.
“I wouldn’t want four dogs next door barking all the time,” Holland said.
He suggested limiting the family to just two dogs, as specified in the city ordinance.
Commissioner Tom Cooley said he agreed with Holland, that it was a privilege to have two extra dogs, and that is when one of the family’s children started to cry and left the room with a family member.
Mayor Joe Reardon pointed out that there were two paths: “You can pick winners or losers, or figure out a way to make it work.”
He said he was sympathetic to a family with pets that did not want to see them split up.
“Both sides put us in a very awkward position,” said Commissioner Mike Kane, referring to the fact that both sides alleged the other was not truthful. Kane made the motion to override the Planning Commission and allow the family to have only two dogs, seconded by Holland.
Commissioner Ann Murguia then made another suggestion.
“What’s more important is that people in Wyandotte County need to get along with each other,” Murguia said.
She then suggested that the family be allowed to keep its four dogs, but with the new stipulation that only two of the dogs could go outside at the same time.
Commissioner Nathan Barnes said that he believed the commission should have given more consideration to the post-traumatic stress condition, as it was a serious condition.
After Murguia’s suggestion, Kane withdrew his motion, but Holland would not withdraw his second.
So the commission voted on limiting the family to two dogs only, needing eight votes to override the Planning Commission’s recommendation.
The vote failed, as there were five “no” votes to four “yes” votes for the two-dog plan. Voting “yes” were Commissioners John Mendez, Brian McKiernan, Tom Cooley and Mark Holland. (Commissioner Butch Ellison was absent.)
Next, Commissioner Murguia made a motion, seconded by Angela Markley, to approve a special use permit for one year for four dogs, adding a stipulation that only two dogs would be allowed out at the same time, plus adding the earlier stipulations from the Planning Commission.
This vote also required eight votes to pass since it overrode the Planning Commission’s earlier decision. The vote was 7-2, with Cooley and Holland voting “no.”
Then Mayor Reardon cast the eighth “yes” vote, saying he thought Murguia’s solution was the proper one.
After the vote, the family left the Commission Chambers, and on the way out, an elderly woman with the family said something to the neighbor who voiced the complaint. A minute or so later, the neighbor’s wife got up and started to leave by herself in the same direction as the family, and a security guard went over and accompanied her.
They could all come back again before the commission for another hearing next year, as the permit was only for one year.