Residents raise concerns over proposed kennel
The Enterprise — Lisa Nicole Viers
Lauren Bachner, owner of Four Paws Inn, left, assists two young patrons picking up their dog from a stay at her kennel. Bachner also trains service dogs as well as running her kennel. The service dogs are trained to assist people with physical disabilities. “They’re not a person in a wheelchair anymore,” Bachner said. “They’re a person with a dog.” Behind the young man at the counter, the back end of Tom the office cat can be seen. Tom was enjoying the attention from the two clients as he purred and nuzzled them while they waited for Bachner to retrieve their dog, Sundance.
NEW SCOTLAND — A score of Feura Bush residents are objecting to a kennel in their neighborhood, but the woman proposing the kennel submitted, this week, detailed plans she believes will answer their concerns.
Lauren Bachner currently owns Four Paws Inn in Bethlehem, and wants to move her operation and buy her own property rather than continue leasing.
Over 30 people attended the May 6 planning board meeting, most of them there to voice their strong opposition to the kennel and canine day-care center Bachner had proposed to the board the month before.
Bachner has been running Four Paws Inn for the last four years, having worked there for a decade prior, when it was still named Reigning Cats and Dogs. The owners offered to lease the facility to Bachner and have her take over; she happily agreed and changed the name to make it her own.
The Bethlehem facility is right across the street from and next door to homes, as well as physically connected to an apartment that has been occupied consistently for the past five to six years.
“Nobody has ever complained,” about the kennel and day-care center, Bachner said.
However, the neighbors of 425 Unionville-Feura Bush Road, where Bachner hopes to move, raised concerns about noise, smells, and traffic from the kennel at the May 6 meeting.
Seven households signed a neighbor-created petition opposing the special-use permit. The petition, as well as letters from other neighbors in opposition to the permit, claimed that Bachner’s business would “impair the value of neighboring properties,” and that it “does not conform with the character of the neighborhood.”
Additionally, letters cited the town’s zoning for the Residential Agricultural district, where the 7.4 acre parcel is located. The petition argues against any commercial use in the district, particularly the area surrounding the neighbors, due in part to the fear of a “slippery slope” effect in which other commercial enterprises will pop up in their neighborhood.
However, in the zoning law for Residential Agriculture zones, section 190-12 of the code, one of the special uses listed is “animal hospital, clinic and/or kennels.”
The planning board must determine whether allowing a special use would have a negative impact on the surrounding area. It is then up to the planning board to go through the site standards, listed in section 190-37 of the zoning code.
The board’s interpretations of whether or not a special-use would be “in harmony with the appropriate and orderly development of the surrounding area,” as the ordinance states.
Since the May 6 meeting, Bachner has worked to address the issues neighbors have set forth regarding her permit.
Earlier this week, she provided Jeremy Cramer, building inspector for New Scotland, with documents further detailing her plans for the property.
Bachner plans to turn the existing stable on the property into 17 kennels, dividing the stable stalls into multiple kennels.
She is cognizant of the tendency of dogs to bark, but states they bark only when stressed or upset.
“…at Four Paws Inn, life is about the dogs and their comfort. A dog that is stressed is not happy. A barking dog is not happy. We do everything in our power to ensure that our guests are happy and not stressed,” she wrote.
“Because our dogs are happy, they are not barking,” she continued. “Thus, we are not a noisy facility.”
Bachner also included specifications on soundproofing that will insulate the building, further minimizing any potential for neighbors to hear the dogs.
“The nearest neighbor is how far away? They won’t hear it,” she said at her Bethlehem location last week, noting that people may have misconceptions about what a well-run kennel is and how it functions.
In addition to noise, neighbors were also concerned about smells coming from the dog feces on the lawn when the dogs are taken out. Included in the documents she sent Cramer, Bachner provided her kennel checklist for all the tasks that must be performed every morning and afternoon at the kennel, which includes scooping the yard after all the dogs have been taken outside and then disposing of the waste in garbage cans.
The other main concern neighbors put forth was the potential misuse of a private driveway adjacent to the property Bachner wants to use. Bachner plans to remove a portion of the blacktop that connects the private drive, Attwood Lane, to her property, and fill and seed it, as well as put up a fence to block the view of the kennels from the driveway.
Bachner feels she has addressed all of the concerns of the neighbors, and hopes to not only work, but live among them eventually.
“I would dearly love to put a house on [the property],” she said, referencing the existing foundation from the current owner’s house that burned down in December 2009.
“We’re trying to be good neighbors,” Bachner concluded.
After all comments regarding this application were heard at the May 6 planning board meeting, the board decided to leave the public hearing open for next month’s meeting. Many, if not all, of the neighbors who voiced their opposition then left Town Hall, having said their piece.
An hour later, another permit for a kennel was brought before the board.
Stephan Ray of 109 Price Lane is applying for a special-use permit to allow for a boarding kennel on the 87-acre parcel he owns with his wife.
Their parcel is significantly larger than the one Bachner is proposing to put a kennel on, and sits at the end of Price Lane, about half a mile off Wolf Hill Road.
No one spoke in opposition to the plan.
A public hearing for the Rays’ application has been scheduled for the next New Scotland Planning Board meeting on Tuesday, June 3 at 7 p.m.