Jul 29, 2014
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Rocky River Eyes Appeal to Dog Park Ruling

City has 30 days to challenge judge's decision.

Rocky River Eyes Appeal to Dog Park Ruling

Last week, a Cuyahoga County judge following a lawsuit filed by Rocky River about Lakewood’s nearby dog park.

Now, Rocky River is considering an appeal.

“We haven’t decided what to do,” said Michael J. O'Shea, Rocky River’s assistant law director. “We’ve got to think about it.”

The city has 30 days from the last Tuesday’s ruling to figure it out.

O’Shea said he disagrees with the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Friedland’s ruling.

“I honestly don’t know what the judge didn’t like (about) the lawsuit,” he said. “I know this judge, and I like her, but I strongly disagree with the rationale about the facts.”

The lawsuit was filed in 2007 on behalf of Rocky River and four of its residents, upset by the noise at .

Friedland found that the dog park, opened in 2003, is not a nuisance and denied Rocky River's request for an injunction to close the park. 

 The lawsuit stemmed from complaints from four nearby residents about noise from dogs at the park barking. About 10 neighbors of the park — located at 1299 Metropark Drive — testified in the case.

After weighing the evidence,” Friedland wrote, “the court concludes that evidence presented does not support a finding that the dog park is a private nuisance.”

In the three-year-long case,  paid “less than $4,000” in legal fees, which included the city’s share of a $5,000 noise study, Claussen said, adding that Lakewood’s legal work on the case was done in-house.

Michael Thomas, Rocky River’s finance director, said the lawsuit cost his city $21,602. The involved residents have been footing legal bills for the case since May at the city's attorney rate of $100 an hour.

Asked if he was eager to put the case behind him, O’Shea offered no assurance that the case was over.

“There’s no closure for these poor people who have to listen to these dogs park all day,” he said. “I don’t have a neighbor who have been has rude as these people at that dog park. I know of no good neighbor who would do that to someone else.”

Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers had a different opinion on the case’s outcome. “The judge did a good job of summarizing the facts in her ruling,” he said, pointing out that Lakewood tried to accommodate Rocky River early on in the case.

Lakewood’s earlier proposal to settle the issue by building an $80,000 sound barrier is now off the table. Rocky River had asked that the dogs also be muzzled.

O’Shea referred to Lakewood’s actions in the case the “epitome of rudeness.”

“We just wish that Lakewood would have operated in better faith, and they didn’t,” he said. “We were forced into this case — a place we never wanted to be.”

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