Downtown Highland Park is about to get more ruff.
The City Council on Monday, Dec. 12, advanced a proposal from Pets4Life to open a full-service pet care shop at 661 Central Ave, just east of Green Bay Road in downtown Highland Park.
Council members voted for city staff to develop an approval measure, containing a pair of conditions, for final consideration in January.
Pets4Life plans to consume two storefronts, 659 and 661 Central, which were occupied from 2002 to 2016 by Running Right and Alberto’s Cycles.
In a letter to the City of Highland Park, Pets4Life Manager Greg Gibson said the new business would serve “all of a pet owner’s needs,” and listed grooming, veterinary services, training and retail sales of pet products among the Pets4Life offerings.
“We will be bringing a high-end quality business to the district and anticipate drawing additional shoppers and diners to the neighborhood,” Gibson wrote.
Pets4Life plans to employ up to 10 full-time staff members, including two veterinarians, who will work out of offices on the main floor, where retail and showcase grooming stations will also be located. More grooming will take place on the lower level, which will also feature pet training, event space and more retail, Gibson wrote.
The proposal first appeared in front of Highland Park officials on Nov. 15 during a plan and design commission meeting. Commissioners were tasked with considering a conditional use permit for Pets4Life — primarily because of its intent to offer veterinary services, which are not a permitted use for that business district, documents say — and parking relief, because the applicant petitioned for two dedicated spaces “off-site.” The off-site location, however, is next door at 655 Central Avenue, and the properties share ownership.
Pets4Life also successfully requested that the City waive a parking fee that could have been administered because the business failed to meet the city-determined parking requirement of seven off-street spaces. Gibson argued the two off-site spaces plus existing street spaces on Central Avenue would be adequate to serve Pets4Life’s customers. Additionally, he wrote, a $75,000 fee would cause “significant hardship.”
Council member Adam Stolberg said on Dec. 12 that the city’s parking requirement is more tied to business size than use.
“It’s important to recognize that although the site is of a certain size, as was talked about at the (plan and design commission), the parking requirement based on the size of the unit versus what they are actually going to be using on a daily basis would bring the required number down,” he said.
The item was sent to the council Monday with a unanimous recommendation from the plan and design commission, which voted on the application Dec. 6. The commissioners did request that Pets4Life provide staffers with downtown-Highland Park parking permits, which are $285 annually.
The council on Monday questioned Gibson about some of the public concerns expressed during commission hearings and in messages to the City, such as solutions for medical waste, dog waste in front of the building, and deliveries to the rear of the business.
Village Manager Ghida Neukirch said the city has regulations pet waste that will be enforced, while other federal authorities regulate medical waste from veterinary clinics. Gibson said medical waste is stored inside the facility until it is picked up, usually weekly, by a licensed service.
Speaking on animal waste, council member Anthony Blumberg said the city has heard similar concerns when a similar pet-based business opens in Highland Park and “it has been managed well.”
“Our code certainly requires that you pay attention to those things, and I am confident that you will,” he said. “I think having this in the business district is beneficial to the community as a whole. I think it will hopefully attract a lot of foot traffic, if only to peek in the windows.”
The City of Highland Park Council completed the conversation by asking city staff to draft language for approval of Pets4Life under the conditions that its front windows remain uncovered; and employees park in designated employee parking spaces, a condition to be reviewed after one year.
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