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Village Fire Department Rescues Dog From Wall

LAKEWOOD — Months after reporting the department’s first rescue of a cat from a tree in “a number of years,” Lakewood Fire Department Chief Kurt Hallberg reported that first responders helped rescue a dog from a wall over the weekend.

“You really can’t make it up,” Hallberg said via Zoom during his report to the Lakewood Village Board during Monday’s meeting, noting that the dog ended up in a drywall wall through a void space caused by a bathtub.

“If you’ve ever seen a bathtub that’s upside down, on the edge where you’d put a sliding door, that adds a void space between the front and the back of the bathtub where it’s formed,” Hallberg said. “The dog went into where it used to be a cupboard for towels, got into the front of that bathtub and walked all the way down to the back of the bathtub and came to a drywall wall. We had to cut the drywall out and take the dog out from that end.”

“We’ve heard of cats in a tree, but we’ve never heard of a dog in a wall,” village trustee Rich Fischer quipped.

“They were both a first for me in the last year,” Hallberg added.

During a work session earlier in the meeting, the village also heard from resident Pete Conley, who had filled out a neighborhood complaint form that had been submitted to the village offices Dec. 2.

Conley claims that there has been considerable damage caused to his Oak Street neighborhood by one residence.

“They park their trucks and their vehicles on the front yard. This also includes all of their company which they have frequently. The prefer to park in the yard, which at this time of year, has created a muddy mess which we as the Oak Street residents have to deal with daily. Not only is it a significant eye sore, their trucks and cars transfer a significant amount of debris to the street which we eventually pick up on our vehicles and carry into our own driveways.”

Conley has spoken to several neighbors about the situation and noted that some are concerned and wish to remain anonymous because of “possible retaliation.”

“A couple of them that I spoke to a couple days ago wanted to be here tonight, but they couldn’t. They had other prior obligations or they had to work, so I’m kind of the voice of the residents. We feel that something needs to be done. It’s certainly not fair to deal with this on a daily basis.”

“The mud, the debris … looking out my front window and seeing three or four pickup trucks parked in the front yard.”

Conley said he is pursuing a reduction in his assessment for his taxes and argued that the actions by the neighbor are a direct violation of the village’s zoning code, which does not list vehicles as a permitted obstruction in a preserved yard, court or open space.

Jeff Swanson, the village’s code officer, meanwhile said that his office has sent “order of remedy violations when they were warranted due to code violations and has had the violations remedied.

“It does appear that this is an ongoing neighbor dispute and not all complaints are code violations,” Swanson said. “The latest complaint of parking in the yard is not a code violation and no further action will be taken by the code enforcement office for parking in the yard.”

Ted McCague, village trustee, voiced support for Conley’s situation.

“The Conleys are deeply disturbed by this whole thing and apparently so are their neighbors who are a little less willing to come out and complain about this, but it’s been going on for a long time and I think it’s incumbent upon the village to come up with a solution to the problem,” McCague said. “It may be law enforcement, it may be something else. We can’t allow this kind of thing to happen in the middle of one of our very good neighborhoods there. So, I do think something should be done.”

Sgt. Christopher DePonceau of the Lakewood-Busti Police Department said there weren’t many law enforcement issues.

“It’s mostly neighbor complains, loud music and things like that,” he said. “We’ve always responded and told them to turn it down and things like that. There’s not really much that we can do legally for them parking in their yard or any other such things as the code violations.”

“I feel that it’s imperative that the board and the mayor take a look at this situation and maybe look at rezoning or re-coding this to include vehicles in here,” Conley said, noting that other villages have such a code.

Trustee Ellen Barnes asked if there was enough parking in the residence’s driveway. Conley responded that there was.

“I know in the winter we have the overnight parking rule and I just wasn’t sure if that’s why they were parking on the front lawn,” she said. “We can look into it.”

“I think maybe we can find some sample language in other community zoning codes that we can address stuff like this,” Doug Schutte, trustee, said. “What you have are clearly people who have a complete disregard for anybody else but themselves and they don’t have very high standards.”

Village attorney John LaMancuso said that there was a “little bit of language in the current zoning code regarding parking on front yards.”

“There is language in there about no parking in front yards,” he said. “It could be clearer for sure, but there is no parking in the required setback on a front yard.”

Mayor Randy Holcomb said that he would find sample language and would come back to the board with that at some point. Swanson also asked that a committee convene to discuss other zoning issues.

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