Board considers standards for private dog parks

If you're a dog owner in Henrico County, there's only one public place in which your dog is legally permitted to run "at large" (free from your control) – Dorey Dog Park in Varina.

But a request from a county homeowners' association could eventually lead to more private options for dog owners.

The Henrico Board of Supervisors may consider adopting standards that permit private dog parks to be constructed in the county. The Wyndham Foundation has requested permission to establish such a park, following a survey of Wyndham homeowners that found widespread interest.

During a work session Sept. 25, supervisors discussed the merits and faults of private dog parks and what the standards for such parks might entail.

Current county code prohibits dogs from running at large except on homeowners' private property or at the Dorey Dog Park, which opened last October.

County planning officials suggested that if the board were to adopt guidelines for private dog parks, they should require that such parks:

• be at least one acre in size;

• include fencing at least five feet in height;

• include 400-foot setbacks on all sides to the nearest dwelling or structure;

• include a minimum of 15 parking spots per fenced acre;

• be open only from dawn to dusk;

• forbid commercial boarding and breeding operations on site.

Tuckahoe District Supervisor Pat O'Bannon said she saw the merit in such private parks as a way to provide exercise for dogs and a chance for owners to interact and make friends – particularly at apartment complexes – but wondered if those complexes would be able to meet the setback standards. Henrico principal planner Ben Blankenship said that his office could design separate standards for such complexes if the board desired.

The county likely would require approval of a conditional or provisional use permit for any private dog parks, Blankenship said, to permit enforcement of applicable standards.

Planners intend to meet with the Wyndham Foundation and return to present an update to the board within two months.

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