Former Omaha real estate agent and developer Kevin Irish, whose past problems with alcohol led to a jail sentence, plans to build a $2.3 million pet resort in Harrison Village Plaza in western Sarpy County.
The Sarpy County Board on Tuesday will be asked to approve a special use permit for Irish's Paw Spa Pet Resort, a 12,000-square-foot facility to be built on a vacant lot near Harrison and 168th Streets just west of the Runza restaurant.
Irish, 56, hopes to break ground before the end of the month and open in August.
"The pet industry is a $61 billion industry," Irish said Monday. "Sixty percent of Omaha has a dog. We have three. There is just a huge need for a really unique day care for pets."
Irish pleaded guilty in 2009 to fifth-offense driving while intoxicated, a felony. The sentencing judge in Sarpy County sentenced him to 30 months and revoked his driver's license for 15 years. He was released in May 2011 after serving half the sentence.
Irish, who resigned from the board of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority after his second DUI offense, said he speaks at churches, schools, civic clubs and Alcoholics Anonymous groups "to try to help others" maintain sobriety.
"Jail might have been the best thing that could have happened to me," Irish said. "I deserved it, and I used the time to my advantage to study for the pharmacy exam and also to prepare business plans."
Plans for the pet spa call for three indoor play areas, two grooming salons, and televisions — because, Irish said, dogs enjoy noise.
The building will have room for up to 105 dogs and 12 cats. The dog kennels will be generously sized — 6 feet tall, 4 feet wide and 8 feet deep — with skylights and an air-filtering system.
"This will be a unique village setting," said Irish, who plans to hire about 12 people.
Sarpy Planning Director Bruce Fountain recommended approval of the special-use permit with the stipulation that Irish obtain a license from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. The state regulates and inspects such animal boarding facilities.
Sarpy's planning commission, which is an advisory panel, unanimously recommended approval in late March.
County Board member Jim Warren, whose district includes the property, said he has received no complaints from surrounding property owners.
Irish founded Mobile Paw Spa, a mobile pet grooming business, last year. He said he provides services for about 200 dogs a month, in an area from Treynor, Iowa to Valley, Neb.
"It's extremely rewarding to create something from the ground up," he said.
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