Supervisors will no longer decide on kennel applications

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 21, 2007

COURTLAND—It seemed fitting somehow.

Tired of mediating the disputes between neighbors that have become a hallmark of the process, Southampton County supervisors were considering a change to the county’s zoning laws that would take them out of the kennel license application process.

A public hearing Monday was all that stood between the board and peace. With its approval, such disputes in the future would be handled by the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

But supervisors were not getting out of the business of dog kennels without hearing from one more frustrated neighbor.

Referring to complaints made by neighbor Rita McCormick during supervisors’ November meeting, Bill Worsham rose during the public hearing to give his side of the story and to clear his name.

&uot;They’re not barking 24/7, as you were told,&uot; he said of the dogs he keeps in the kennel behind his Ivor home. McCormick had described for supervisors a nightmare scenario of barking dogs that keep her and her husband awake at all hours of the night and ruin their quality of life.

&uot;As you’ve heard from a non-kennel owner, I think it’s important that you hear from an owner,&uot; Worsham said Monday, noting that he has a license for up to 20 adult dogs in his kennel and adding that it has been inspected by county officials six times.

He said he has tried to alleviate the problems that led his neighbor to complain by erecting a stockade fence alongside the kennel and even installing a sound system designed to keep the dogs from hearing and responding to outside noises.

His dogs still bark when they see a deer or another hunting dog pass by their pen, he said, but they soon get quiet.

&uot;I ask you to review this ordinance cautiously,&uot; he said. &uot;I would hate to see another tradition, another institution in this county, be successfully attacked.&uot;

Standing to speak after Worsham, Raymond Drake seemed to put a face on Worsham’s concerns.

&uot;I urge the board to make stricter rules on bringing dogs into Southampton County,&uot; Drake said, noting that he and his wife had been subjected to the noise of barking dogs for most of the time they have lived in Southampton.

Drake was the only resident to speak out against the revised kennel ordinance, asking that the board increase the distance required between kennels and homes.

Drake said the new ordinance’s requirement of at least 150 feet of separation between an existing home and a new kennel is completely inadequate, calling on supervisors to increase that distance to &uot;at least a quarter-mile.&uot;

&uot;I share Mr. Drake’s concerns,&uot; commented Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronald West. &uot;A barking dog can be a nuisance, and he wears thin on your nerves after a while.&uot;

West asked whether any other members of the board were interested in changing the distance requirements. None consented.

&uot;Hunting is an age-old tradition in this county,&uot; responded Newsoms District Supervisor Walt Brown. &uot;My house is probably a half-mile away from United Hunt Club’s kennels, and I can hear them all the time. I don’t see how we can make this particular (ordinance) any better than it is.&uot;

West’s was the sole vote against the new kennel ordinance.