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Home kennel looks to expand over neighbors' objections

Supporters say Hug-A-Bubba's is clean, professional, quiet; opponents fear adverse impacts, negative precedent


by: MARK MILLER - Liana Viken (left), who operates a dog kennel out of the basement of her home north of Scappoose, shows a posterboard with photographs of her property to the Columbia County Board of Commissioners during an appeal hearing Wednesday, June 4. Viken and her husband Todd are seeking a permit to build a freestanding commercial kennel building on their residential property along Highway 30.Neighbors of a Scappoose-area home kenneling business argued Columbia County should not grant a permit allowing it to expand Wednesday, June 4, while the homeowners and supporters feted the enterprise and urged the Board of County Commissioners to provide the permit.

The board held an inconclusive public hearing Wednesday to consider a neighbor’s appeal of the Columbia County Planning Commission’s decision in April to grant the conditional use permit for Liana and Todd Viken, who live at 55501 Columbia River Hwy., just north of Scappoose.

The Vikens operate a dog kennel, a service of their business Hug-A-Bubba’s Doggie Daycare & Grooming, in the basement of their home. They applied to the county for the permit to allow them to build a 4,000-square-foot building in which up to 15 dogs could be boarded, in addition to the half-acre, fenced-in “play area” they use to exercise the dogs they board.

Although the dispute is over whether the Vikens can expand their business at their Scappoose-area home, several people who spoke at Wednesday’s hearing seemed to allude to a broader conflict between supporters and opponents of kennel businesses as a whole.

At one point, Commissioner Tony Hyde chided members of the audience for laughing and clapping after he challenged an opponent of the permit application, George Benz, on one of his claims.

“Kennel people are not the most courteous people I’ve ever...” Benz began, after Hyde’s intervention.

Hyde promptly rounded on Benz.

“That was really out of line,” Hyde said. “We’re not going to do this. I’m going to ask you questions, you’re going to answer them. We’re not going to have this interaction.”

Benz apologized for his comment.

Several other opponents of the Vikens’ application expressed concern that allowing the kennel expansion to go forward could set a precedent that would make it easier for Columbia County property-owners to operate commercial dog kennels on rural residential land.

“It’s not going to stop,” warned Charles Renwick, who said he was concerned about the impact the kennel building could have on his home’s resale value. “Once this is approved, there’ll be more.”

Liana Viken said she has received no noise complaints and built a sterling reputation since opening her home kennel near Scappoose early this decade.

“I will comply with everything. I have been complying with everything. I know this can be a problem, but I am not a part of that problem. I didn’t cause any problem in three years, and I don’t plan to start anything right now,” said Viken.

Several friends and past clients of the Vikens also spoke in support of their permit application, including Planning Commissioner Alta Lynch.

“We’ve had problems with other kennels in this community,” Lynch acknowledged. “And that’s where a lot of the anger comes. I don’t think their business should be judged on what other people’s have.”

She added, “I think that since the neighbors have not filed any complaints, I think that speaks a lot.”

Lynch and others testified that they have not heard dogs barking when they have visited Hug-A-Bubba’s.

The Vikens previously applied for a permit to build a commercial kennel facility on their property to accommodate up to 30 dogs in 2008. After that permit was denied, they successfully applied for a permit to open up a kennel business in their basement to serve a maximum of 12 dogs in 2010.

Hug-A-Bubba’s operates its daycare and grooming businesses at a commercial location in Beaverton.

The Board of County Commissioners is expected to decide on the matter Wednesday, June 18. Commissioners Earl Fisher and Henry Heimuller said they were ready to act immediately after the hearing, but Hyde indicated he wanted to take some time before deliberating.

County planning staff has recommended the permit application be approved with conditions.