Civil rights complaint filed against Coloma Twp.

Poles designate the perimeter of the Amicus Dog Park in Coloma. In the background is property owned by Misty Ketcham. She has filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights against Coloma Township alleging that they violated her disabled daughter's rights when approving the dog park. 

COLOMA — The owner of the house immediately next door to the Amicus Dog Park says her daughter’s rights have been violated.

Misty Ketcham has filed complaints with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) against the Coloma Township Board of Trustees and the Coloma Township Zoning Board.

The MDCR confirmed Wednesday that complaints had been filed and an investigator had been assigned.

Anyone who believes they are a victim of unlawful discrimination can file a complaint with the MDCR within 180 days, according to its website. The department will then investigate the complaint and, if a discriminatory action is found, can enforce two state laws: the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act.

Ketcham claims, because her daughter is disabled, her rights have been violated under the latter. The complaints both read:

“On Aug. 21, 2018, medical documents of my daughter’s disability were turned into the respondent’s board members to show cause to stop with moving forward with opening a dog park next to my home. The respondent’s board member stated that they will move forward with rezoning the designated area and vote to open the dog park on Oct. 12, 2018.”

One of the complaints was filed against the township’s Zoning Board, but it was the Planning Commission that took up the issue. It was not a rezoning of the property that was approved, but a special use permit.

Caleigh Dahn is creating the dog park on part of the Washington School Park site along North Coloma Road for her Girl Scout Gold Award Project. After she got approval from the Township Board in February to move ahead with the project, it was discovered in June that the site needed a special use permit because it would be in an area zoned residential.

The township’s Planning Commission recommended the Township Board approve the special use permit after a public hearing in August, and the Township Board made the final approval at its meeting last week.

Opposition to the dog park was voiced by various people and organizations during the process.

The Coloma Youth Baseball Association, which plays on the baseball diamonds at the park, raised concerns about the possibility of dogs biting children. And Ketcham’s mom, Roxann Daugherty, attended several meetings on behalf of her daughter.

“I have a granddaughter who has medical and mental difficulties,” Daugherty said at a Township Board meeting in June. “She will be subject to parvo, dogs that are not leashed, the smell and loud barking or other difficulties at the park and she can not withstand that.”

Others raised concerns about taxpayers having to pay for continued maintenance at the park.

The Township Board, in an effort to ease the concerns of residents, put conditions in the permit approval to review the dog park each year; to set appropriate hours and days for the park to be open and that it’s closed during baseball tournaments at the park; that a detailed maintenance schedule is created; and that the driveway next to the park is graded properly.

Township Supervisor Ken Parrigin could not be reached for comment about the complaint. 

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman