North Loop neighbors upset over 'poop scoop' problem

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April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

Too many pets and not enough greenspace is killing grass -- and neighborliness

Downtown's booming North Loop neighborhood is all about industrial chic: converted warehouses amid an asphalt-and-concrete

jungle.

Like a proud meat-eater who disdains salads, the gritty area isn't about greenspace. And that might not be a problem...if the new residents hadn't brought their dogs and cats.

Countless canine and feline excursions have left any small parcels of sod pocked with dog excrement or yellowed from urine, particularly near the river.

City Councilmember Natalie Johnson Lee (5th Ward), who represents the Warehouse District neighborhood, chuckled when asked about what she calls the "poop scoop" problem. Then she took a more serious tone.

"It's getting nasty," she said, noting that one town home owner called to complain after finding a bag of dog poop tossed onto her porch as retaliation for complaints she made about pets on her property.

Johnson Lee's office is considering drafting an ordinance limiting the number of pets allowed in condominiums. A city ordinance already requires pet owners to carry plastic bags and pick up after their dogs -- failure to do so is punishable by a maximum fine of $100.

However, some neighborhood residents say some dog owners aren't paying attention. Said Levi Martfeld, a resident at River Station Lofts, 560 N. 2nd St., "I walked from my unit down to the Landings this past month, which is about two blocks, and I counted over 30 droppings along just our sidewalk on the grassy areas. It was a mess. It's foul to look at -- it's foul to smell, and it's just disrespectful."

The North Loop Neighborhood Association, which represents Downtown property owners and residents west of 3rd Avenue North and the riverfront west of Hennepin Avenue, has considered launching a public-awareness campaign to keep lazy pet owners in check.

Evelyn Eubanks, Johnson Lee's assistant, said the condo dog problem is a new "livability" issue for the city. Several condo-dwellers are retired empty nesters or young professionals without children who instead have pets.

"We want to remedy the issue," Eubanks said. "We do not want to punish people who have animals, but we want to also protect the rights of others. We're looking for a compromise."

North Loop Vice Chair Alan Higley said city officials and developers should "get out in front of the problem."

Said Higley, "As a non-dog owner, it is pretty disgusting to see the damage to the lawns and droppings everywhere. I'm sure there are many responsible pet owners, but there are enough others that really wreck it for everyone. There should be appropriate containers along River Parkway, and building owners should be required to put up containers with bag dispensers."

North Loop's 'Number Two' problem

The North Loop developments with lawns are magnets for dogs from other condos and are clearly under siege. At River Station, management has posted signs urging people to pick up after their pets. River Station has four pet-waste containers and a wood-chip area for dogs, to go to the bathroom so they don't kill the grass.

Carol Opsahl, an on-site manager at River Station, said she believes the pet-waste problem is growing. "There's a lot of dogs, and people let their dogs urinate on the grass on kill it," she said.

Martfeld, a North Loop board member, said, "Last year, we had to replace our sod three times because of the residue from the dog droppings. It ruined the lawn. This spring, we've started with our first grass replacement along the street."

As often happens with pet disputes, neighbors are pointing fingers. Some River Station residents say negligent poop-picker-uppers populate Heritage Landing, 415 N. 1st St. their neighbors to the east. A woman in the Heritage Landing rental office, who would not give her name, disputed the idea there was a pet problem in the neighborhood.

Sara Mikkelson, a River Station condo owner who walked along the neighborhood's stretch of 1st Avenue recently with her pups Randy (a shih tzu) and Simon (an ironically named shih tzu/poodle hybrid known as "shih poo"), agreed with Martfeld.

"We need a dog park," she said as her two miniature dogs rolled around on the sidewalk. "There's not enough grass."

North Loop pet owners Nancy Yanklich and North Loop board member Fritz Kroll are disappointed by the irresponsible owners in the neighborhood. They live at Lindsay Lofts, 408 N. 1st St., across the street from River Station.

Kroll's dog Schaefer, a big bushy Newfoundland, played with Yaklich's Puerto Rican terrier mutt, Maxine, on the sidewalk in front of the condominium complex.

"I know dogs better than the people around here," Kroll quipped, who said he moved from Uptown to the North Loop to make things easier for Schaefer, who has trouble walking because of a slipped disc.

Yaklich said she wanted to see more condo developers take River Station's lead and put up more waste dispensers.

"It just takes one person to ruin it for everybody," she said.

"I just think the owners of the properties should provide for places for people to relieve their pets," Martfeld said.

He believes another part of the solution is to press developers who allow pets to provide more greenspace. He's also e-mailed professional dog-walking businesses in the neighborhood about the problem. He said he's seen some dog walkers taking pups for strolls without plastic bags in hand.

He said he wants to see stepped-up Animal Control enforcement.

If the North Loop board goes the public-awareness route, they could seek advice from their neighbors to the east, the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA), which represents the Downtown core and east-of-Hennepin riverfront.

DMNA announced plans a few months ago to crack down on the city's (human) public urination problem with a public awareness campaign called "Go Before You Go." Perhaps the pet-oriented campaign could be "Scoop after a poop."