Naymik-Campbell appeals Planning Commission use permit decision
Mono County is going to the dogs … literally, it seems … with at least two cases involving canines as recent agendas. Late last year the Board of Supervisors found itself working out a lease situation with Jim Ouimet’s Mammoth Dog Teams operation at the old Sheriff’s Department substation property just below Mammoth Lakes. This past week Board members found themselves dealing with another delicate dog dilemma.
Lynn Naymik-Campbell, owner/operator of Endless Trails Racing Siberians, came before the Board on Tuesday to appeal the Dec. 10, 2009, Planning Commission decision to revoke her land use permit, which allowed her to keep her 12 dogs as part of a private kennel that has heretofore been operating on 3.5 acres in a residential section of Walker.
In a Feb. 22 staff report prepared by Mono County Compliance Officer Nick Criss, he said Mono County Animal Control has been “inundated with complaints alleging various violations,” at least nine double-sided pages of them covering parts of the past eight years, most consisting of free-roaming dogs that are “creating a nuisance in the area.” Naymik-Campbell was subsequently given 60 days to pare down the number to a maximum of four dogs, as specified by County animal regulations.
Criss told the Board in his opening remarks that complaints continued up until Tuesday’s public hearing, adding that one had been received that very day. Tim Sanford, attorney for Naymik-Campbell, said her client “feels lost about what’s been going on.” “This is a really sad day … there is some truth to the notion that she’s not up to handling these 12 dogs. She’s had health issues, including recent surgery. These dogs have been her life, but we all get older and she’s dealing with the consequences.”
He said Naymik-Campbell has even gone so far as to look at relocating outside the area, but the current soft housing market has left her unable to sell her Antelope Valley property.
Sanford suggested a compromise, one worked out with County Counsel Mark Magit: an amendment to the use permit allowing for six dogs, as opposed to four. The six dogs Naymik-Campbell would have to get rid of are the “escape artists” that have been causing all the trouble. Several could be euthanized if homes can’t be found for them. Sanford said her veterinarian suggested she may be doing something unethical in getting rid of six of her dogs, but the attorney insisted his client is willing to agree to Animal Control terms of compliance.
Sanford indicated that six dogs (essentially making up a team) would allow her to keep a core group together, at least in concept. The six are bonded as well, Naymik-Campbell said, and she hopes to have them back on a racecourse in future days. She also apologized for the behavior of the “escape artists.”
“I can’t un-ring the bell, as much as I’d love to, but I’m feeling a lot stronger physically and psychologically,” she told the Board. “My son and daughter are both in the Army and left for Afghanistan last Sunday, so I love my country, but I’m a doer and will do what I have to do to keep the remaining dogs together as a team and make sure they’re productive.”
Naymik-Campbell said she and her husband were very involved in the dogs, and one of his last wishes to her before he died was “take care of the dogs.”
Sanford said, and supervisors largely agreed, that any further “legal morass” would be completely avoided should the Board opt to amend the use permit. “It would be the equivalent of a ‘stipulated’ judgment,” Sanford explained, meaning terms and conditions will be set and agreed to by all parties, including consequence for any future violations. Naymik-Campbell’s next recourse would be to challenge the Planning Commission decision in Superior Court, an option neither she nor the County want.
Magit said the idea of removing the dogs wasn’t part of the original Planning Commission procedure, but he floated the thought, based on his assessment that not all 12 dogs were reported at any one time. With what appeared to be only a few errant dogs, he told supervisors that the concept of reducing the number of dogs to six was a reasonable solution to explore.
Naymik-Campbell said she is willing to accede to a lengthy list of Animal Control conditions (15 in all), including bullet points such as: no more than six dogs at any time, access (randomly/frequently) to inspect the property and house, dogs prohibited from running loose, chain link kennel gates to remain closed, holes under fences to be filled in, no breeding, all dogs must be sterilized, no boarding, no rescue dogs, no training, a neat/clean facility, poop removed twice daily, no excessive barking, valid permits from Animal Control and “covered runs are to be provided,” providing what Animal Control staff said goes to providing proper shelter.
Animal Control Director Nancy Boardman said the department’s goal is to be fair and work to a resolution. Whether violations were happening or not is hard to prove, but Boardman did say that despite the numerous complaints documented, there have been weeks and months that Animal Control received no calls or complaints, and conceded that may well be due to at least some degree of compliance.
“Dogs will do what they’ll do, but the complaints returned, it’s gotten out of hand,” Boardman concluded. No formal leash law exists in that part of the county.
How long would it take Naymik-Campbell to find new homes for the six dogs? According to Sanford, her vet estimated two years. Sanford, however, asked for 90 days, which he reasoned might be enough time to relocate (hopefully) all six dogs.
The new plan, Sanford said, won’t please everyone, and may not please anyone, including Naymik-Campbell.
It certainly didn’t please nearby neighbors, who came to testify at the hearing. Jane Gunn said the dogs previously threatened her goats. Relocating her already stable goat-raising situation seems wrong to her, but that she doesn’t feel good about the huskies getting out and having to protect them. Diane Anthony also said she’s had problems with the dogs. “Anyone who’s had an animal has sympathy for Ms. Campbell,” she said. “We’ve heard how sad her situation is, but what would be sadder is to come home and find livestock or other animals hurt or killed. It’s not a matter of if, but when. I have animals that are valuable monetarily and emotionally. Her poor animals … what about our poor animals? I live by the rules. I have three dogs, all of them up to date on shots and licenses. Seems unfair that she would be allowed to have more animals than the rest of us.”
Another neighbor related that in June 2001, three of Naymik-Campbell’s dogs pinned her dog down. “When is that going to stop? We have no leash law, but it should be within [the County’s] control. Respect my rights and protect my dog,” she urged.
Neighbors generally agreed they weren’t in favor of granting her another set of “laws [Naymik-Campbell] can violate.”
“I respect the neighbors’ feelings,” Sanford said. “As a dog lover, if I were in their shoes, I’d be unhappy, too. That’s why I said it’s a sad day.”
During deliberations, supervisors were clearly conflicted, at once agitated but also sympathetic. Supervisor Tom Farnetti said it was a sad day indeed, but was inclined to uphold the Planning Commission decision, citing the duty the County has to uphold the rights of its citizens. Supervisor Hap Hazard said he’s put more than 2,000 bodies in body bags during his years in law enforcement, but said this report disturbed him greatly. He read reports of neglect involving the dogs, among other instances. Hazard added he “doesn’t buy the excuse of ‘she doesn’t get it.’ She’s lost her position in the pack as a leader. This pack is running her.”
Hunt went easier on Naymik-Campbell, saying that by allowing her to help the situation vis a vis her dogs, she’ll be helping herself. “I’m leaning toward not upholding the Planning Commission at this time and going with some kind of amended use permit.”
He and Hazard, however, agreed that in any event the process of bringing it before the Planning Commission took far too long (8 years) and advocated finding a swifter way to address these types of infractions.
Hunt, Farnetti and Hazard put their collective heads together and hammered out what seemed to work as a stopgap compromise. The deal calls for removing six dogs immediately and having the attorneys work out a stipulated agreement within 10 business days, putting the pressure on them to reach a deal sooner rather than later. The Board would then consider an amended use permit in mid-April. Any additional violations would be brought back and looked at as part of any decision at that point.
“It’s taken eight years to get to this point; I don’t think four more weeks is going to make that much difference,” Hazard said. Hunt, however, admonished Naymik-Campbell to start abiding by the Animal Control’s conditions to avoid any further impinging of her neighbors’ rights.
Welcome to Crowley Lake
During Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Mono County Board of Supervisors, Assistant Public Works Director Jeff Walters presented the Board with a final group of designs recently submitted for a proposed community entrance sign in Crowley Lake.
Crowley Lake community members picked the sign they liked best, and supervisors seemed to have no problem going with their selection. The problem at this point is finding a funding source for the $1,500 needed for the sign’s purchase and installation.
One of Crowley Lakes few community amenities, the sign looks like wood, but is actually to be composed of Medium Density Overlay (an engineered plywood material) that is, according to Walters, more resilient to weather than regular wood.
The Board is keen on getting the sign, but not enough to tap General Fund dollars to do so. Walters was given more homework, that of finding the funds. District 2 Supervisor Hap Hazard, who represents Crowley Lake, said he was good for $500 of the amount out of his own pocket. It is unknown at this time where the remaining funds will come from.