Dog hearing rescheduled

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Zoning board doesn’t have quorum to consider plan

COURTLAND—A Monday public hearing to allow military dog training on nine Southampton County properties came to an emotional end before things got started.

And when attorney William Riddick, representing American K-9 Interdiction in Walters, offered to demonstrate the training to the Board of Zoning Appeals, his suggestion was met with dismay from residents.

“You can’t do a demonstration,” shouted Bryant Bunn, who was among more than 100 attending the standing-room-only hearing. “You’re going to stage it.”

The hearing was postponed when the seven-member board did not get a quorum — a majority of its members present for making a decision.

Members Marie Sykes and Doug Chesson did not attend; Chesson had a family emergency, and it’s not known what happened to Sykes, said Beth Lewis, director of community development for the county. Member David Holland could not participate because it was learned Monday he needed to be sworn in.

A fourth member, James Bradshaw, attended and then recused himself due to a conflict of interest. Bradshaw owns a Delaware Road property that’s next to one of the properties in question and is opposed to the training.

“I have heard all of the detonations, and that’s why I disqualified myself,” Bradshaw told The Tidewater News.

That left members Glenn Updike, Elma Brown and Peter Copeland.

The public hearing has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19, at the Southampton County Government Center.

Resident Jenny Bunn was upset about the delay.

“We were supposed to pursue this case tonight,” said Bunn, whose property on Three Bees Road also neighbors one of the properties in question. “I don’t want anybody to be fooled by this. You’ve given the company extra time to show what they want to show. We got our letter two weeks ago.”

Copeland apologized.

“I’m sorry we didn’t have a quorum tonight,” he said. “It’s out of our hands.”

American K9 Interdiction began training in the county in February. Residents reported homes and windows shaking from what sounded like machine gunfire and mortars going off.

When a resident reported the training to county officials, the company was given 10 days to stop. Military dog training is not permitted in the county, but can be granted through a temporary special-use exception by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Paul Roushia, co-owner of American K-9 Interdiction, said his company has done similar training in Isle of Wight County, Suffolk, Newport News, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Permission was not needed.

The properties the company would like to use include:

– The former Boykins Elementary School at 17219 Pittman Road, owned by the county

– Ivor Elementary School at 7486 Proctor’s Bridge Road, also owned by the county

– Parcels on Melon Field and Three Bees roads in Newsoms, both owned by Denise and J.C. Bunn III.

– Parcels on Odom Chapel Road, East Depot Street and south of General Thomas Highway west of Cypress Bridge Road, all in Newsoms, belonging to the Joan Bunn Life Estate

– Property on Crossroads Drive near Franklin, owned by Green Waste Recycling

– Property at 36465 General Mahone Boulevard owned by Charles and Kathleen Clark in the Berlin-Ivor area.

Six to nine residents opposed to the training have hired Courtland attorneys Drew Page and Jack Randall with Stallings and Bischoff.

Among arguments they plan to present is it should be up to the Southampton County School Board to allow the use of its buildings in Ivor and Boykins, Page said. They also don’t believe the Board of Zoning Appeals has the authorization to grant a special exception.