Innsbrook Board of Trustees denies Wags and Whiskers amended site plan

By Jack Underwood, Staff Writer
Posted 5/26/24

The Wags and Whiskers Animal Shelter's amended site plan was unanimously rejected by the Innsbrook Board of Trustees at their May 14 meeting.

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Innsbrook Board of Trustees denies Wags and Whiskers amended site plan


The Wags and Whiskers Animal Shelter’s amended site plan was unanimously rejected by the Innsbrook Board of Trustees at their May 14 meeting. The amended site plan would have allowed the shelter to use a septic lagoon on their property for sewage. 

At the beginning of the meeting, Board Chairman Dan Reuter moved the vote on the shelter to the top of the agenda. This placed the vote ahead of the public comment that traditionally begins meetings. 

Trustees Cynthia Cook, Donna West and Reuter outlined their opinions and felt that the Wags and Whiskers board had misled county and DNR officials about the size of their property compared to the lagoon and that their previous approvals should be discounted. 

Each voted against approving the amended site plan. Trustee John Simon also voted in the negative but refused to elaborate on his decision at the meeting. 

Later, Simon responded in a text message. 

“After comments from other residents, I did not want an open air lagoon within a commercial zone,” said Simon. 

From there the meeting quickly deteriorated. As public comment began citizen after citizen expressed their disbelief that the board could not see the need for the shelter in the community. 

Supporters had spent hours explaining to the board how the lagoon was not only safe, but how their other options, a larger septic tank or a drip system, would be too expensive to operate, or would fail leaving the entire property useless. 

At one point, Simon got up from the table and left the meeting for roughly five minutes after a speaker berated him for wearing sunglasses in the meeting. 

“This board sitting here has spent every waking hour, has lost sleep, has spent every hour possible, searching every single option possible,” said Wags and Whiskers Board Member Taylor Erb. “There is not another useful option.”

Trustees had frequently expressed their support for the shelter, but not the lagoon, and many speakers made note of this point saying that the board’s decision would effectively prevent the shelter from ever using the property for its intended purpose.  

Wags and Whiskers Board President Tracy Sator distributed a letter to the board and meeting attendees outlining her position. 

“We urge you to reconsider your vote carefully and the effect it will have on this community and on the reputation of the Village of Innsbrook and you as trustees,” Sator wrote. “While the amended site plan may be subject to local jurisdiction, your vote needs to be based on the village ordinances and codes, none of which prohibit a septic lagoon on commercial property.”

This saga started over two years ago when the Wags and Whiskers submitted their original site plan, with an underground septic tank for sewage. During the construction process, they discovered that a septic lagoon would be a more efficient, and cost-effective method for wastewater management. 

While they received approval from the county for their septic lagoon and later an exemption from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, they had not brought the changes to the attention of the Innsbrook Board of Trustees. 

“I could not wrap my head around how a lagoon was permitted and built on this small parcel,” said West. 

The addition of the septic lagoon was labeled a major change, requiring the shelter to return first to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and then the village board, to get an amended site plan including the lagoon approved. 

From there, public meetings quickly turned conscientious. 

After two hours of public comment on April 3, the village’s planning and zoning commission recommended the shelter could make use of the lagoon, provided they commit to connect to public sewers within 12 months of the lines reaching their property, and that they obtain a variance for their well. 

“As a planner, I’m confused why this wasn’t approved as a variance or a special use permit, it should have … it should have,” said Virgal Woolfolk. 

After an additional two hours of public comment at the following board meeting on April 9, primarily from supporters of the shelter, the board chose to table the measure instead of vote. They cited the volume of information they had received during the meeting and said they needed time to reach a decision. 

Shortly after that meeting, recently elected trustee Mike Lyles abruptly tendered his resignation. This left only four board members to make the final decision. 

The conversation then began to turn towards alternatives, and citizens questioned whether the village’s funds from the American Rescue Plan Act should be appropriated for the shelter instead of the new village hall. 

The new village hall has also been the subject of controversy, and Steven Gissy spoke out and felt that there were better uses for the ARPA funds. 

“Because of COVID, Wags and Whiskers was forced to go out and pay for their own land, pay for their own construction, and in addition to that they lost 18 months worth of fundraising, … and I’m concerned that there is a misappropriation of the ARPA funds,” Gissy said. 

Reuter was resistant to the idea, and felt that the shelter had received ample opportunities to compromise with the village. 

“It’s my interpretation and reading, of the final rules, is that those funds can be used for the construction of the village project, the new village hall,” Reuter said. 

He was referring to the 2023 Interim Final Rule, the most recent federal guidelines on the appropriation of unused ARPA funds. Municipalities have until the end of 2024 to allocate the funds, from there they must be spent by the end of 2026. 

For Wags and Whiskers, the meeting may seem like a resounding defeat, but supporters are still trying to find a way to make things work. 

Sator said the board is considering all options including the sale of the building and the property, but no decisions have been made. 

Innsbrook, Wags and Whiskers