Homeowners say Udall Park in Elk Grove Village is wrong spot for dog park

Elk Grove Park District Executive Director Ben Curcio says neighborhood opposition to plans for a dog park now, as in the past, have been proverbial "not in my backyard" concerns about noise, smell, parking and property values.

Except now, the district's latest proposal for a fenced-in play area for man's best friend literally would be just feet from the backyards of homeowners, who already have threatened legal action to try to block it.

The district has proposed installation of fencing and an electronic key card system for the fee-based dog park at Udall Park, in a residential area just south of the new Elk Grove Technology Park on Oakton Street.

Plans call for two plays areas - one for big dogs and the other for small dogs - on what is currently open recreation space on the south side of the park, which is bordered by single-family homes, and condominium and apartment buildings.

Curcio said the district staff picked that location because it seemed to be the best out of all the parks evaluated over the years and would be "least impactful" with only a few homes nearby.

But homeowners on Fleetwood Lane, whose backyards would border the west side of the dog park, say it's the wrong spot.

"Three generations of my family played in that park," Leonard Vanderweel told park board commissioners at their meeting last Thursday. "Now you're taking it away and giving it all to the dogs."

Vanderweel - who has lived on Fleetwood with his wife, Nanci, the former Elk Grove Township supervisor, for more than 50 years - said he favors the concept of dog parks but doesn't think they should be in an area surrounded by homes. He and other residents say they fear parking and traffic problems, owners who might not pick up after their dogs, noise, and a decline in property values.

"There's going to be 100 dogs behind my house barking from dawn to dusk," Vanderweel said. "I don't think you want that. I enjoy my backyard as much as I can."

His neighbor, Simon Malek, is coordinating a petition drive and has retained two law firms to represent residents should plans progress through the Elk Grove plan commission and village board.

"I'm a dog person. But the location is the wrong location. It's in the middle of residential," Malek said.

Similar public outcry defeated plans for a dog park at Powell Park in 2007, while a village ordinance prohibiting fencing in a flood-prone area led the park district to shut down construction of a dog park at Morton Park near Salt Creek.

Curcio and park board President Bill O'Malley said they will continue to collect comments from Udall Park neighbors and may solicit additional feedback during an upcoming town hall meeting. They said a Sept. 28 plan commission meeting, where a number of residents first expressed their concerns, was just the first step in the process.

The district's request for a special use permit to allow the dog park and an associated parking lot was continued by plan commissioners, while the district refines its proposal. The village board would have final say.

And while $550,000 has been budgeted, the park board ultimately would have to approve and pay for the final project.

"We were never going to have a shovel in the ground until we made sure that we knew exactly what those residents want," O'Malley said. "We know that the Elk Grove community wants a dog park. We've done focus groups, surveys and plenty of meetings. But you're right, nobody wants it in their backyard."

  A sign shows the public notification for the Elk Grove Park District's petition before the village plan commission. The panel on Sept. 28 continued the request amid neighborhood opposition. John Starks/
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