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Complaint, permit woes move dog event to Pierce County

A South Kitsap woman who had hoped to draw Jack Russell terriers and their owners from all over the state and beyond this weekend to frolic on her property was forced to move the event outside the county after Kitsap officials informed her she might need a conditional-use permit for her home’s facilities.

Tina Stafford, a member of the Tri-State Jack Russell Club, planned and publicized an “All-Breed Fun Day” for this Saturday at her 10-acre home on Ridge Rim Trail. The event would include races for small dogs, agility events for all breeds, and would raise funds for nonprofit organizations and future club events.

However, Stafford said she was informed less than two weeks before the event she probably needed a conditional-use permit for not only the event, but for the existing facilities at her home.

“I was told that because I had from one to 10 dogs and dog runs on my property that I was running a business and needed a permit,” Stafford said, explaining that the facilities on her property — which include kennels and five dog runs — are completely fenced in and are used by her four dogs only.

Stafford said she was told she would need to pay $250 to apply for the permit which, if granted, would cost another $2,000.

And she was told there was no guarantee she would receive it in time for the event, which was less than a month away.

“And this was on top of the $7,000 a year I already pay the county in property taxes for my home,” said Stafford, who has lived at her current home for 17 years and lived next door for another 15 years.

Stafford and fellow organizer Leann Strunk said they found out about the possible need for a permit after holding a similar event at Stafford’s home July 31.

“We had no clue we needed a permit for this type of club activity on private property,” Strunk said. “We couldn’t think of any violations.”

However, Stafford explained that one of her neighbors called 911 to complain about dust being kicked up over his fence during the July 31 event — something she said happens every time any vehicle drives the dirt road lining her property — and soon afterwards a county code enforcement officer visited her property.

Eric Baker of the county’s department of community development confirmed an officer inspected Stafford’s property a couple of weeks ago following a neighbor’s complaint.

He said the county has not yet assessed if Stafford needs a conditional-use permit.

“We’re not fully certain of exactly the scope of what may or may not be going on at her property,” Baker said, explaining the county has scheduled a pre-application meeting on Sept. 14 with Stafford.

At that meeting, Baker said staff from the county’s building department, health district, fire marshals and others will evaluate the use of the property. Many factors will have to be taken into account, Baker said, such as traffic, dust, noise, and odor, and all uses of the property have an impact, regardless of whether “any money changes hands or not.”

“The rural areas of the county have a wide variety of uses, and we try and make them all as compatible as possible, and keep neighborhood disputes from cropping up,” Baker said.

Stafford said regardless of the outcome of the Sept. 14 meeting, she moved Saturday’s “Fun Day” to Gig Harbor, where she was told she could pay $25 for a permit to use Hales Pass Community Center.

“The city of Gig Harbor said we could have it within the week, and they even suggested five other places, including a school,” Strunk said.

Stafford said she still hopes to bring the event to her home, or at least South Kitsap. She claimed the county offered no suggestions for alternate sites to hold the event, and said other parks and schools either prohibited dogs or were cost-prohibitive, such as the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

“Why is Port Orchard missing out?” she said, explaining that Port Gamble recently held a similar event that drew 700 dogs and their respective owners to hotels, restaurants and other surrounding businesses.

“Port Gamble got a lot of business,” she said. “It’s really a shame you can’t even find a place to hold this event here.”

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