The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

April 15, 2013

Board Ok's pet business after public hearing

By Justin Jones, Staff Writer

March 14, 2013 — Stanfield residents wanted their voice to be heard Thursday evening, with the majority voicing their opinion that the town board should reject a rezoning request.

About 15 people spoke at a public hearing, which had to take place outside of town hall because of its capacity limit.

The majority of the speakers were not in favor of the town rezoning land off N.C. 200, while there were four residents that were in favor of the rezoning that chose to speak.

At the center of the hearing was a request for the commissioners to deny a dog grooming and kennel facility to be built off N.C. 200 near Berea Baptist Church Road and Family Sports and Fitness. The business would be owned and operated by James and Lorrie Castonguay.

To allow the business on that land, the commissioners would have to rezone the property, which was labeled R-20, a residential space. One portion, 2.80 acres, would be rezoned to a conditional use business zone (GB-CD), while another, 8.65 acres, would be rezoned to R-A.

While many of the comments heard were asking the commissioners to turn down the rezoning request, each commissioner voted for the land to be rezoned, allowing the business on the property.

Town Administrator Bob Harvey said the town had received a petition with more than 50 names both for and against the request.

Before the commissioners gave their comments inside of town hall, and ultimately their vote, they listened to the comments from members of the public, who were scattered on the temporary bleachers or standing  around them.

Mayor Kevin Barbee called out names, alternating between those that were for or against the zoning changes. After only a few speakers, those speaking against were following one after another.

Before the time for voting came, Commissioner Lucas reminded residents that the voices heard outside were from a concentrated area of the town, many of whom were residents of the Willow Creek neighborhood. Lucas said the town is bigger than just a percentage of those that were within a mile of the property.

Residents cited many reasons why they were asking the commissioners to reject the request. Many were fearful that the kennel could impact their neighborhoods through noise levels, smells and property value. Other residents said changing the zoning could lead to bigger problems down the road by setting a precedence in choosing commercial businesses over residential areas and losing the distinction between the two. Perhaps all of the resident’s comments against the rezoning application could be grouped into the comments by Gerry Vincent and Jennifer Bumgarner.

“Approval of this application will cost you. Approval of this application will reduce or decrease these (home) values,” Vincent said.

“We are talking about dogs versus people. A dog kennel verses a home, an investment.”

He commented that a depreciation in home values would force the town to increase their tax rate to compensate for lost revenues.

Bumgarner asked the council members if they would like a grooming and kennel facility behind their house.

“I certainly do not,” she said.

“I do not want to feel trapped inside our home on a nice evening because the sound of dogs barking has driven us inside.”

But not all were against the facility.

Ginny Churchill, who was one of the planning and zoning board members who voted to pass the request along to the commissioners, said she was initially against allowing the facility. But after hearing the Castonguays’ presentation, she changed her mind.

“When I saw what it was going to be. How far off the road it was going to be, blocked by trees. When I found out that it was not going to have any outdoor runs, and several other factors,” Churchill said, she was in favor of it.

Others followed, including planning and zoning board member Mitzi Webb. Webb voted against the request during the planning meeting earlier in the year.

Following the public hearing, the meeting moved inside.

The Castonguays were unable to be present for the hearing because of a death in the family. Jerry Burleson of Whitley Realty, who sold the property to the Castonguays, presented on their behalf.

Burleson touched on many areas, including their physical plans for the facility, which will be called Doggy Heaven Day Care & Spa. Their drawings include two buildings, a grooming shop that would be closer to N.C. 200, and a kennel that would be put off the road to the right of the property. Burleson said that the Castonguays have plans of building their own house on the land in the future.

Burleson’s strongest comments, which he derived from documents he was given by the Castonguays, directly addressed issues of noise and barking by the public.

“A barking dog is about 78 decibels from 50 feet away. When you see sound verses distance, the nearest house from the kennel will be at least 600 feet away. If a barking dog were at 80 decibels, the sound level at various distances would be... all the way down to 600 foot and that barking dog would be down to 24 decibels,” Burleson said.

“If there were a barking dog outside of the location, the sound level would be less than that of a normal conversation.”

Burleson’s presentation on behalf of the Castonguays was the final piece of information the board needed before a vote.

But before the vote took place, Lucas delivered about 15 minutes worth of thoughts on why he would support the land being rezoned.

“Someone out there mentioned if you do not have a master plan, you don’t know where you’re going as a town. That is very true,” Lucas said.

“With that master plan, we have chosen what areas we want what.

“The folks that were part of the planning prior to all the rewriting of our ordinances, we determined what we wanted where. Will we look at that again in five years? Yes. It’s a working document.”

Lucas’ comments were verified by the town’s master plan that list the property in question as commercial.

“It actually conforms to what folks in this town, come up together and decided, we want this strip of property to be commercial,” he said.

“It does conform to our master plan.”

Lucas also addressed that he understood concerns over safety and property value. But he noted that much of the public’s understanding may differ from the actual plans.

“I can understand that, but I don’t think the impact is going to be what the perception of it will be.”