Medford civic leaders talk a great deal about continuing efforts to revitalize downtown, to encourage people to live downtown and to entice businesses to open there. But when presented with an opportunity to advance all of those goals at one time, they point to a restrictive city ordinance and refer the matter to city staff.
Robert Dudley of Medford wants to open a "doggie day care" business in a commercial location to serve dog owners who want a safe, stimulating environment for their pets while the owners are at work. Such businesses are common in other urban areas.
But Medford city planners say a dog day care facility is actually a kennel, which requires a 200-foot setback from other businesses because of the noise produced by barking dogs. This makes it virtually impossible to establish such a business in any commercial area.
Dudley is understandably frustrated by this attitude. He argues a day care is not like a kennel, where dogs are cooped up in individual cages.
The operator of a dog day care in Bend — where no setback is required — says his four-legged clients bark only now and then because they are playing together rather than confined to cages. And he found a location with a vacant building on one side and a car wash on the other.
Day care for dogs may sound like a luxury, but for dog lovers who spend all day at work and want happy pets it is a sought-after service. Kennels, which tend to be in rural locations because of the noise issue, aren't convenient for commuters and don't provide the kind of stimulating interaction a day care setting can offer.
As downtown Medford continues to develop and more people start working there, demand for this kind of business will increase. Those workers are more likely to consider living downtown if they see services that make it an attractive option.
But planners say a dog day care is a kennel, kennels must have a 200-foot setback, and that's that.
This is exactly the kind of bureaucratic response that sets would-be entrepreneurs to howling.
Other metropolitan areas manage to accommodate dog day care businesses. One Portland website lists 90 in the greater metropolitan area, more than half of them in the city itself.
If Bend can manage to allow a dog day care with no setback requirement, surely "Metro Medford" — the brand selected by the Heart of Medford Association — can do the same. If not, the city will demonstrate that it isn't ready for the "Metro" moniker.