Innsbrook Board postpones vote on Wags and Whiskers Animal Shelter

By Jack Underwood, Staff Writer
Posted 4/18/24

The Innsbrook Board of Trustees met on April 9 to discuss the Wags and Whiskers Animal Shelter and their septic lagoon.

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Innsbrook Board postpones vote on Wags and Whiskers Animal Shelter


CORRECTION: A correction has been made to this story. In a previous version the story stated that the next Innsbrook Board of Trustees meeting will be on May 7, that meeting is on May 14 and will take place in the Common Room of the Innsbrook Resort. Attendees who are not resort residents may use the entrance on Stracks Church Road. 

It was standing room only in the Village Hall of Innsbrook as the Board of Trustees met on April 9 to discuss the Wags and Whiskers Animal Shelter and their septic lagoon that has been a point of contention in meetings for over a year.

Trustees heard from a few opponents and a breadth of supporters of the shelter. Speakers sought to alleviate concerns from the board that the lagoon may negatively affect the surrounding area or pose a public health risk. 

Proponents of the shelter included citizens as well as members at the Wags and Whiskers Shelter and the engineers they had brought on to examine their position.

“The first thing that comes to me is how important it is, for the Village of Innsbrook, to provide this kind of resource for the community,” said Nancy Inman, the first speaker at the meeting.

Inman, who pointed out that she is an attorney, although not serving as legal counsel to Wags and Whiskers, continued saying she did not feel the village’s ordinances prohibited the construction or use of the lagoon in the first place.

“The village, in its ordinance, has deferred the decision on types of sewers and approval for sewers to the state, and the state has approved it,” Inman said. 

She was referring to communications between the shelter and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources about a letter sent to the shelter regarding the lagoon. The letter was received on Nov. 29, 2023 and was written by Cindy LePage, an engineer with the DNR. 

The letter confirms that the shelter received an exemption from the Missouri Clean Water Law allowing them to use their lagoon as constructed. 

“This exemption is from permitting requirements of the Missouri Clean Water Law only and does not apply to or affect any county or other local ordinances and restrictions that may apply,” LePage wrote, “Based on the information provided, the use and operation of the lagoon as a pump and haul is allowed.”

Proponents of the shelter have also pointed out that the village ordinances do not explicitly ban the use of septic lagoons. 

After over two hours of public comment the board began their discussions and several members felt the volume of information they had received that evening was too much to process before a vote. Instead, a motion was approved to postpone any action until their next meeting scheduled for May 14. 

The amended site plan for the shelter which included the lagoon received a conditional positive recommendation from the planning and zoning commission on April 3 in a meeting that included over two hours of public comment. 

That vote passed narrowly four to three. Initially the commission voted on a negative recommendation however, commission members Cheri Joyce and Virgal Woolfolk motioned and seconded on a vote for a positive recommendation with two conditions. 

Those conditions were that the shelter connect to public sewers within 12 months of the infrastructure becoming available and presumably discontinuing use of the lagoon as well as the requirement that the shelter obtain a variance from the DNR for their well. 

Even with the recommendation board members still had concerns about the necessity of the lagoon. Shelter President and Director Tracy Sator spoke to the steps they have taken to ensure that the lagoon is the most viable option. 

“As a village you’re not capable of providing sewer to these parcels. Is it right that you should deny us the correct septic system for our use?” Sator said. “As a non-profit we are stewards of our donors' money and forcing us to put in an alternative and very costly septic system is punitive.”

They also heard from one of the engineers that the shelter has enlisted, Paul Ganey, on the reasons behind the lagoon’s construction and why other options like a drip system or a larger septic tank would be insufficient. Ganey, who was attending the meeting via Facetime, referenced two other shelters he had worked with in Jefferson County. 

“One of those (shelters) has a pump for their system that pumps all their sewage to a plant, and the other one has a drip system, both of those are under failure most of the time,” Ganey said. 

There were also some speakers who were not for the approval of the lagoon who were largely concerned with property values. One speaker, Ed Grobbe, felt that lagoons are seen as a negative and that whether or not it would pose any threat to public safety it would still affect property values.

“Anytime you have a lagoon, it has a negative connotation for property values,” Grobbe said. “I don’t care where it is, somebody sees a lagoon; they automatically think it’s gonna smell whether it does or not, they’re gonna think it’s gonna leak, or leach, whether it does or not, it’s a perception issue.”

There was also some discussion between board members about the previous planning and zoning commission vote. At one point during discussion, Board Chairman Dan Reuter asked Trustee John Simon, who is also on the planning and zoning commission, to elaborate on his vote from the earlier meeting. 

Simon, who was attending the meeting by zoom, said that he was not in favor of approving the lagoon despite voting twice for a positive recommendation. 

“My goal was to get this process out of P&Z so we could make a final decision, that’s the sole reason for me putting this on and voting yes,” Simon said. 

The measure would have moved on to the Board of Trustees regardless of Simon’s vote since the commission only sends positive or negative recommendations.  

Reuter, who was in attendance at the commission meeting, was uncertain about the commission’s recommendation given Simon’s statements. Regardless, the vote was legitimate and a final decision will be made at the May 14 meeting. 

The May 14 meeting will be held at the Innsbrook Resort Common Room to accommodate for the larger crowds that have gathered at previous meetings. Attendees who are not residents of the resort can use the entrance on Stracks Church Road to enter for the meeting.