NEWINGTON â€“ Town zoning officials have rested their case on in-home doggy daycare â€“ itâ€™s prohibited.
The Town Plan & Zoning Commissionâ€™s recent decision means residents like Amy Berube have to shut down their enterprises. Commissioners voted 4-3 to deny Berubeâ€™s application for Shelbyâ€™s House-A Canine Camp, the in-home pet care business sheâ€™s operated out of her Indian Hill Rd. home the last six years. The board also rejected a draft amendment Berube and her lawyer presented, which would have allowed this type of home occupation to exist within the townâ€™s zoning regulations.
The proposal included provisions restricting the number of dogs in a pet-care home and prohibiting exterior disturbances. These werenâ€™t enough to sway the commission, which ruled that its sanction would open residential zones to commercial ventures that donâ€™t belong there.
â€śThis would set a precedent for other types of service operations,â€ť TPZ Chairman Frank Aieta said. â€śHairdressers, car repairs, bakeries, dog groomingâ€¦all things that should be in a commercial zone. This could devastate the character of a neighborhood and threaten the health, safety and welfare of neighbors.â€ť
The case stemmed from a complaint the town received last fall, prompting Berube to register her business with the town â€“ something she claimed she didnâ€™t realize had to be done. Over a public hearing process that carried on the last six months, her attorney along with dozens of friends and neighbors supported her cause.
â€śThis was a very unusual and emotional case for a lot of people,â€ť Aieta pointed out. â€śIf I had to vote from my heart I would have given it to her, but when I applied the regulations they could not convince me they met the letter of the law.â€ť
The three commissioners who voted in Berubeâ€™s favor disputed identifying the business as a kennel and did not find conflict with allowing it to stay open as a special home occupation.
â€śI am opposed to a kennel in a residential area but this is not that,â€ť Commissioner Stanley Sobieski said.
Berube said her disappointment with the outcome was nothing compared to its impact on the families that rely on her pet-sitting.
â€śThe ones who are really affected are my clients, who are now scrambling to find help,â€ť she explained.
Commissioner Domenic Pane said he voted to protect the quality of life in residential areas. He also suggested the commission make it easier for pet care facilities to operate in the townâ€™s commercial zones. Currently, dog boarding is only permitted in conjunction with veterinary hospitals and there is only one in Newington that does it.
â€śThat regulation should be modified so this type of business could be allowed in all commercial zones, without having to be tied to a groomer or a veterinary hospital,â€ť Pane said. â€śGive someone an opportunity to rent a small space to operate this business where it could grow and prosper, away from the residential zones, which have to be protected.â€ť
TPZ is expected to look at this option at its next meeting, April 11.
Berube, however, has no interest in opening a doggy daycare outside of the home. Her plans include fostering dogs while the family weighs their options for the future.
â€śYou donâ€™t get paid to foster, itâ€™s just a way to continue doing what I like doing,â€ť she said, adding, â€śThere is also talk of moving out of town.â€ť
Several surrounding towns allow in-home pet care, according to Berube. For a mother of young children, itâ€™s a way to supplement the familyâ€™s income while remaining at home.
â€śEverything else in Newington is hard to leave,â€ť she said. â€śThe schools are fantastic, parks and rec is amazing, but when you consider going to the town next door, having a lower mill rate and bring able to do what I like to do, itâ€™s kind of a no-brainer.â€ť
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097, @schmittnbh or firstname.lastname@example.org.