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Highland IL City Council halts plans for dog business

A local business owner’s plans for expansion are on hold after a zoning vote by the Highland City Council last week.

Jessica and Jason Prichard own Double J Doggie Play N Stay, offering overnight dog boarding, day care, grooming, obedience and puppy classes. They planned to move their grooming and day care operations to a new location in Highland at 140 Woodcrest, which had been vacant for many years.

The Prichards had posted on Facebook the week before about their plans, calling it a “great next opportunity to expand in our founding and hometown of Highland.” But the plan has had some stumbling blocks. For one thing, the Prichards wrote it is “a challenging property to say the least, with the property being vacant for so many years, the yard (and) buildings have fallen to disrepair.”

But the biggest problem was the current zoning — C-3 business — would have to be changed to industrial in order to allow dog grooming. That meant a rezoning request, which went to the building and zoning commission in early June.

The commission’s report indicated they did not believe the nearby properties would be negatively affected; indeed, the proposal would “greatly improve” the property. The immediate neighbors are Olde Wicks Factory, Ki-Do Karate, Splish Splash Auto Bath and Bradford Bank.

However, the commission recommended denying the request, and the city council voted unanimously last week to affirm that decision. Councilman John Hipskind was absent; all others voted no on the petition.

Community development director Breann Speraneo said the commission’s main concern was, if the property was rezoned to industrial, it would remain industrial unless someone applied to rezone it.

“This would allow for industrial uses at this location, not just pet care and pet-related sales and services,” she said.

Councilwoman Peggy Bellm said having served on the planning and zoning commission, she valued their opinion.

“I know diligently they look into (these cases),” she told the Prichards at the meeting. “You’re a well-respected business and we do want to keep you in Highland. But I don’t like rezoning for a single business.”

Mayor Kevin Hemann agreed, voicing his concerns if Double J went out of business, “it could go to something else we don’t want in that area.”

Despite the vote, the Prichards said they were grateful for “a tremendous amount of local support.”

“Every client that reached out, we can’t personally say ‘thank you’ enough,” Jason Prichard said. “It may have brought a tear or two to Jess and I … Thanks to everyone that wrote and showed up in person.”

Moving forward

Jason Prichard said they are still talking with city staff about possibly revising the definitions of the existing zoning to allow dog care in C-3 business, and they still hope to buy and clean up the property for their business.

Speraneo said current zoning defines two pet-related uses: “indoor commercial kenneling” and “pet care and pet-related sales and services.”

“We will be reviewing these definitions to ensure they cover all bases and are allowed within the proper zoning districts,” Speraneo said. “If, after review, the staff feels that an amendment is needed, we would then propose an amendment.”

All amendments must be heard by the combined planning and zoning board and approved by the city council to go into effect, Speraneo said.

Prichard said the council vote was “a small setback, but we are heading in the right direction.”