Dog-training facility eyes land in Walters

Published 8:27 am Friday, October 30, 2009

WALTERS­—Despite concerns from some nearby residents, American K-9 Interdiction is one step closer to building a dog-training facility with space for up to 200 dogs in an old detention center in Walters.

The Isle of Wight County Planning Commission, with a 6-4 vote, recommended that the Board of Supervisors approve a special-use permit for the facility Tuesday night, with several conditions, including the construction of a sound barrier.

Noise, along with falling property values and safety were among the top concerns voiced by residents who live near the property on Burdette Road at a spirited public meeting last week.

Isle of Wight County owns the property and Lisa Perry, the county’s economic development director, said the county would benefit from the sale of the property.

“The county is making a great profit on the deal and they’re putting the property back on the tax rolls, if this happens,” she said. “This is not a done deal.”

Paul Roushia and Nigel Rhodes, co-owners of American K-9 Interdiction, along with Perry, attended last week’s meeting to answer questions and ease fears among residents.

Roushia said the company has 48 employees and trains dogs to for the military and law enforcement agencies.

“We supply the vast majority of all the bomb dogs you see on TV in Afghanistan,” Roushia said. “And we’re extremely proud of that.”

If the company purchases the property, Roushia said they will make improves, leveling some old buildings and constructing new ones.

He also said the neighbors shouldn’t be concerned about dogs escaping or excessive barking.

“They’re extremely well-mannered and well-behaved,” Roushia said. “They don’t sit up yapping all night.”

The facility will be manned 24 hours a day, and very little training will be done on site, according to Roushia. He also doesn’t expect it to impact property values.

“We’re in Carrollton, and those property values didn’t go down,” he said The Carrollton site, the owners say, is too small and is increasingly encroached upon by residential development.

Earlier this year, American K-9 Interdiction was granted approval to build a facility in Zuni, but backed out and said they were leaving the county.

“We were quite blunt, we’d already built a facility in South Carolina and we were gone,” Rhodes said. However, he said the county initiated talks to keep them from leaving and offered the detention camp site.

“It’s costing us more money to stay here in Isle of Wight than it is to relocate the whole operation to South Carolina,” he said. But factoring in the cost of training new employees, the two decided it was cost-effective to stay in Isle of Wight.

Even after hearing from Rhodes and Roushia, Bill Stephenson still wasn’t convinced the operation should move to his neighborhood.

“They’re putting it in people’s front yards,” Stephenson said. “I just think that the county’s got more land and they can find another suitable spot away from residential areas.”

Stephenson said he understands the service the company provides to the military and law enforcement agencies.

“I’ve got nothing against what these people are doing, it’s just the location,” he said.

Charlotte Britt, who also lives nearby, supports the company’s plan to move to the site.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “They need something over here.”

With the go-ahead of the planning commission, the special-use permit now goes before the Board of Supervisors for approval.