Change would muzzle many disputes over dogs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2007

COURTLAND—A new class of dog kennels would reduce the need for public hearings and cut down on the time boards and commissions spend listening to neighbors complaining about neighbors, Southampton planners learned last week.

A &uot;private kennel&uot; classification would keep elected officials from having to get involved every time a citizen with more than five dogs on his property attempts to get the animals licensed.

The proposed amendment to the county’s zoning ordinance would make public hearings unnecessary for most kennel permits, potentially eliminating the problem faced this year by both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, when such hearings encouraged neighbors to bring their squabbles into the public arena.

Assistant County Administrator Jay Randolph outlined the proposed strategy to the Planning Commission last week. Commissioners will hold a public hearing next month, then make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. If both bodies agree to the changes, the new law could be in place as early as January.

Randolph’s proposed plan calls for a new definition for a private kennel as &uot;a place where adult dogs are kept for personal enjoyment and are accessory to the primary use.&uot;

The ordinance would allow up to five dogs to be kept on site without special permits in agricultural and residential districts. Private kennels with six to 25 dogs would be permitted with administrative approval, subject to a number of guidelines.

Among those requirements would be an application fee of $100, submitted along with a site plan that includes plans for screening, showing the property to be a minimum of three acres and confirming the kennel to be set back at least 25 feet from all property lines, 50 feet from all water sources and 75 feet from all residences.

A plan for caring for the animals and disposing of their waste also would be required, and the sale of more than five dogs per year would be prohibited. The county’s animal control officer and health department would be involved, and the zoning staff would inspect the property each year.

Once an applicant met the new requirements, his neighbors would be notified and allowed a 30-day comment period. Administrators would be able to approve applications that did not receive objections.

Applications with objections or requests for private kennel permits for kennels housing more than 25 dogs would be sent to the Board of Zoning Appeals and would be subject to a $300 application fee.

A hunt club kennel would be allowed as an accessory use of the club, with a maximum of 50 dogs kept on a minimum of one acre. Other requirements would be the same as those of a private kennel.

The proposed ordinance defines a commercial kennel as one that boards, breeds, cares for or otherwise handles dogs for reasons other than personal enjoyment or hunting.

A commercial kennel license still would require a conditional use permit, as under the current law, meaning an appearance by the owner before both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors.