FAIRBANKS — Yellowknife Drive cuts across a hill through a forest of birch and spruce about 20 miles outside Fairbanks.
The narrow road lies far up Murphy Dome Road, where the subdivisions are sparse. The mail isn’t delivered out there. Regular school buses don’t pick up the children. There’s no fire department. This is where you go to get off the grid.
Yellowknife Drive has a few cabins and a couple of houses are under construction. It’s quiet and picturesque, which is the draw for many residents and landowners.
It’s also an ideal place for a large dog yard, according to a report from the Fairbanks North Star Borough Department of Community Planning.
The department thinks one of the residents should be allowed to keep up to 35 dogs on his property. The landowner has applied for a permit for a major dog kennel. If approved by the planning commission on Jan. 8, it would be the largest dog kennel in the area.
Several area residents and landowners oppose the permit. They are worried about noise pollution from 35 barking dogs.
Property owner Jeff Deeter developed an interest in sled dogs as a teenager in Wasilla and later became a sled dog tour guide.
He ran the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race when he was 19, placing 59th, ahead of 19 other racers.
The next year, his family acquired seven acres on Yellowknife Drive in the Murphy Subdivision. That was 2009. Deeter moved there with some dogs — not more than 10 — began developing the property and enrolled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Deeter lived on Yellowknife for about 10 months, he said, and thereafter for short stints between housesitting gigs. None of the neighbors complained about his dogs.
“I really enjoy it up there,” he said.
This summer, Deeter, who guides heli-mushing tours on the Norris Glacier in Juneau, began renting his tiny cabin on Yellowknife to John and Tina Fink, also dog mushers. The Finks moved to the property with their dogs. They intend to buy the property, Deeter said.
In all, 24 dogs inhabit the property, said Deeter, who lives off the Elliott Highway where he is housesitting. Some of the dogs at the kennel on Yellowknife belong to the Finks and some belong to Deeter.
A neighbor heard the dogs and alerted the Finks that they need a conditional use permit for the dog kennel.
Deeter applied for the permit, and the borough planning department sent out notices to neighbors.
Deeter assumed sled dog kennels were allowed in his neighborhood because of a sled dog kennel around the corner, he said. He didn’t know the other kennel had obtained a permit.
At least eight letters have been written to the planning commission asking the panel to reject the permit. Deeter has two letters of support. One Yellowknife Drive resident wrote that he is neutral.
Eric Kruse, who lives on Yellowknife Drive about 1,500 feet from the kennel, has been awakened by barking dogs numerous times. The thick forest does little to block the noise, according to his statement.
“The dogs bark and howl at all hours and the noise often continues for extended periods longer than 15 minutes,” Kruse wrote. “My quality of life has been degraded along with the value of my property. Out of town guests staying with me commented on the excessive noise and expressed sympathy for my situation.”
The land is zoned Rural Estate-4, which allows churches, bed and breakfasts, single family homes, duplexes, home occupations and livestock.
Others uses are granted via a permit, according to the borough code. Those include animal hospitals, cemeteries, lodges, day care centers, hostels, professional offices, mobile homes and dog kennels.
Larry Zervos has a recreational cabin on Yellowknife and dreams of building a house. He said a large dog kennel deviates from the residential nature of the subdivision.
The kennel around the corner from Deeter’s property is approved for 15 dogs.
But Zervos states the difference between the two is Deeter and his tenants are running a commercial kennel.
Deeter wrote in his application for the kennel permit that the dogs are used for guiding and racing and are a source of income. But he said in an interview that the dog kennel is recreational for the purposes of the permit because none of the dogs race or guide when they are at the kennel on Yellowknife. Those activities happen away from the property.
Some who oppose the kennel worry that allowing a major kennel would open the door to more large dog kennels in the area.
If approved, this would be the second dog kennel for the Murphy Subdivision, according to a report by borough planner III Brandy Schade. Nine permits have been approved on property within about four miles of Deeter’s property. One dog kennel application, in 1995, was denied in the area.
The largest dog kennel permit approved in the area, in nearby Lincoln Creek Subdivision, is for 30 dogs. 2005 was the last time anyone applied for a dog kennel permit in the area.
The permit sought by Deeter states the dogs would be fed between 7 a.m. and
9 p.m. and the animal waste disposed of in sealed containers. It calls for a 50-foot vegetation buffer around the kennel.
“The Finks just want to live a quiet life 22 miles outside of town,” Deeter said. “They really enjoy that place. The dogs really only bark at very specific times of day, when they are being fed and when they are being run.”
As for the statement that a large dog kennel is incompatible with the residential nature of the Murphy Subdivision, Fink said everyone is entitled to their opinion.
“We don’t want to offend people but we want to have the dogs,” Deeter said. “The Finks want to live with their dogs in harmony with the surrounding neighbors.”
Contact freelance writer Amanda Bohman at email@example.com.