The business had a rocky start but is surviving, if not thriving,
despite running headlong into a bureaucratic roadblock at City Hall.
The modest buildings and grounds hug the Diversion Channel on North
Third Avenue, just across from the South Dakota State Penitentiary. The
business currently boards 20 to 30 dogs and has ambitious plans for
expansion, including more kennels, training and other services.
Melton cleaned up the area and is in the process of remodeling much
of the interior. He'll talk for hours about it if you want.
But tonight, he's just going to listen.
He wants to understand how the council works, how he can convince
them or the mayor or anybody with the city, really, that he's been
Curtis Melton, you see, is at the end of his rope.
He wants the city to grant him an easement so he can straighten out
the stair-step property line that severely limits how he can use the
land between the buildings and the bike trail that follows the Diversion
He wants the city to let him put up a 6-foot fence and plant trees
to allow the dogs to run in the yard rather than sit in a kennel all
And he wants somebody, anybody, to admit the city might have made a
mistake when, early one November morning two years ago, workers showed
up and tore down an outbuilding that straddled the property line.
For reasons that nobody seems willing or able to completely
explain, he's run into a brick wall.
"I didn't think the city would be this difficult," Melton said
while sitting in the barren room that serves as his office.
The building that was torn down sat on both the city's land and
Melton's; of that, there is no dispute. But they disagree about who owned
more of it.
The city says it was mostly on public land and therefore the city's
responsibility. The land survey, a legally binding documents in these
cases, proves it.
Melton says that the survey was wrong, that satellite maps show the
building more on his property, and thus he should decide what to do
The city also made him pay the few dollars in taxes on the shed
until he went down to City Hall in June and pointed out that it had been
torn down. So the city was taxing him for a building it said he didn't
By all accounts, it wasn't a particularly nice building. The city
said it was in disrepair, had no real value, was a potential liability
and needed to come down.
Melton wanted to use the shed for warmth and shelter from the
elements for the dogs in the outdoor run.
He had plans to fix it up and thinks he should get a little credit
for what he's already done to the property.
He cleaned out 100 cubic yards of brush and debris off the city's
part of the land when it wouldn't do it. He planted trees, mowed the
grass and generally brought the place into respectable shape.
None of that seems to matter.
City Attorney Gary Colwill says Melton is using the issue of the
building as leverage to get what he wants on the land easements.
"Curtis has an agenda here," he said.
The agenda, Melton says, is to have a successful business.
But why not at least talk about the easements?
Planning Director Mike Cooper says the city has no issue with how
Melton wants to use the property.
The issue, he says, is that the Corps of Engineers wants to raise
the dike along the channel, and that might require more land.
Also, the city doesn't allow encroachments on the scenic greenway
that hosts the bike trail and other park areas, Cooper says.
"The issue of removing the building to me was we were concerned
about the safety of the property," he said. "His request for additional
land, we did not feel was appropriate, because of the pending future
improvements that might require reconstruction."
The city itself, however, has quit waiting for the Corps to make a
decision and this year plans to pave the last stretch of gravel bike
trail that runs on top of the dike.
And the odd construction of Melton's boundary line - which stair
steps in straight lines against the curve of the river - would suggest
the corps can come only so far without touching the protruding corners of
It also would suggest there's a way to draw a line - and expand
Melton's property - that is no closer to the river than the Hidden
Paradise Pet Resort already is.
That would be less land than Melton originally asked for but it's
at least something to discuss.
The bureaucratic entanglement is sucking the patience out of
He hired a lawyer; that didn't work.
He's appealed to individual councilors. While sympathetic, they
don't seem to be able to crack through.
And he's talked briefly with the mayor, who invited him to set up a
meeting to talk about it, only to have it canceled by the city's
The only option at this point is taking it to court. But Melton
doesn't want to spend his money on lawyers when he could be putting it
into the business.
So he's going to Town Hall tonight.
We'll see how long he can bite that tongue.