Wright-Way animal shelter looks to rescue Morton Grove warehouse

Christy Anderson, the director and founder of Wright-Way, gets congratulated after the Morton Grove Plan Commission voted 4-2 in favor of her proposal to move into town.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
Shelby Walchuk, a member of Wright-Way's board of directors, looks on while the Plan Commission votes 4-2 on Nov. 19 in favor of Wright-Way's proposal to move into town.  |  Rick Kambic/Sun-Times Media
A bus crashed into the Wright-Way Rescue in Niles on Oct. 3.  | Jennifer Johnson/Sun-Times Media
Sue Linse, a volunteer at Wright-Way Rescue in Niles, holds puppy Shelby after a bus crashed into the animal shelter Oct. 3.  |  Ben Meyerson/Sun-Times Media

Wright-Way Rescue appears to have found a new home less than two months after a school bus crashed into its Niles facility, leaving the complex uninhabitable.

Morton Grove’s Plan Commission voted 4-2 on Nov. 18 to recommend approval for a new adoption center for Wright-Way at 5919 Lincoln Ave., a 10,000-square-foot warehouse near Mason Avenue.

The Village Board will hear the case and the Plan Commission’s notes at its Dec. 9 meeting.

“We’re really excited to get started on our new home,” said Christy Anderson, the director and founder of Wright-Way. “We look forward to answering what questions remain and putting the neighborhood’s fears to rest.”

Wright-Way would not say the property’s asking price, but Anderson said they’ve raised $150,000 of their $1.1 million goal — enough for a down payment on the property and the cost of renovations.

Before hearing Wright-Way’s case, the Plan Commission first had to create a definition for the term “animal shelter,” which is now any place of business where animals are kept temporarily with the intention of finding new homes.

Animal shelters are allowed in commercial one zones (light retail like shopping centers) and commercial-residential mix, but only through special use. Village officials said they would rather review each petition on a case-by-case basis depending on the location.

Nancy Radzevich, the village’s director of community and economic development, said animal shelters are good for retail areas because many of them have gift shops and supply stores.

The intersection of Lincoln and Mason avenues is deemed commercial-residential, because China Chef, a strip mall and the warehouse in question are arranged between the major road and a neighborhood.

Nearby residents Alice Dutenkauf and Robert Kestler were among those who opposed Wright-Way for fear of bad odors from the building’s ventilation system, potential noise issues and parking congestion.

“That’s a tight space for animals to be comfortable in, and if they throw the droppings in the dumpster then we’ll have rodent problems,” Kestler said. “Rats live on fecal matter.”

Anderson said Wright-Way averages 5,000 animal adoptions per year, and brings 50 to 70 animals to Chicago every Friday from its downstate intake center.

“About 50 percent of our adoptions are preordered ahead of time,” Anderson said. “People browse our website and talk with us on the phone, and pretty much know which dog they want when they get here.”

After making that statement, Anderson said the adoptions are done in tiered appointments so to not overwhelm the building or parking situation.

“Most of the animals are gone by Tuesday,” Anderson said. “Of the few that do remain, we walk to adults outside on our own property and clean up after the puppies very regularly.”

When the animals arrive, Anderson said the truck backs into the loading dock and the garage doors are closed before anything is unloaded.

“Each kennel is individually ventilated to remove odor and airborne bacteria,” Anderson said. “We are very concerned about the appearance of our kennels because the adoptions depend on cleanliness. As for feces in the dumpster, our employees who smoke out back have never complained about odor or rats.”

Upon making a motion to approve Wright-Way’s proposal, Commissioner Ed Gabriel added an amendment to require the organization to ventilate its fumes out through the roof instead of a sidewall near residents. He then voted yes, in favor of getting the vacant property back into use and bringing more visitors into town.

Commissioner Steve Blonz also supported the proposal, saying the building will self-police the number of dogs kept on-site and the traffic study indicated no parking problems.

Chairman Ron Farkas, however, voted against Wright-Way because he felt the neighborhood was still facing unjust disturbances. Commissioner Saba Kahn also opposed the sale because the building lacks green space for the dogs and she believes odor would still be a problem to neighbors.

If the village approves Wright-Way’s proposal, construction could begin as early as Jan. 1. Anderson said she expects a two-month overhaul before opening in late February.

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