Story by A.J. Arias
The Town of Warwick Board of Trustees held a public hearing on Thurs., Apr. 12 to discuss a potential zoning change. The aspect of the zoning change that attracted the most conversation during the hearing was the allowance of an apartment on the property of a dog kennel for the purpose of maintenance of the kennel.
This zoning change is just part of a long struggle for residents of Jessup Rd. and surrounding areas. According to Jessup Rd. resident Orsi Sussner, she was informed in August of 2017 of the application for a large scale dog kennel on the property next to her. The dog kennel would be for as many as 70 dogs and would cover a space of 6,000 square feet, which would surround several other residences besides Sussner’s.
In addition to the Sussners, other neighbors from Jessup Rd., Windmill Ln., Chester Hill Rd., and Distillery Rd. came together and held meetings to discuss the issue. The group’s main concerns were the noise, smell, heightened traffic, and possible contamination of their well water that might occur if the kennel is built.
Currently the area is zoned as rural but the group feels that the area has become more residential based on the number of homes that have been built in the area. There are two rental properties on the future kennel site but the owners of the property do not permanently reside there. Neighbors feel that the owners have no invested interest in the property and only see it as a place for financial gain.
During the public hearing, Justin Sussner presented the Board with a copy of a petition containing 101 signatures from people in the surrounding areas in opposition to the dog kennel. Janice Ashe, another resident of Jessup Rd., told the Board that she felt a dog kennel would, “change the character of the neighborhood.”
Justin Sussner added that although it may not be intentional, the zoning change feels like an example of spot zoning, which is when a zoning change application is made for a specific area of land even if the zoning change goes against the Towns current master plan or zoning restrictions. The allowance of an apartment on the property in the disputed zoning change, Sussner felt, eliminated a major hurdle for the dog kennel owners. Dave Smith told the Board he felt that allowing an apartment as well as the house was unnecessary.
The zoning change was proposed so that on a property with two dwellings, one property would be for the business of the kennel and the other would be the residence of the kennel caretaker.
Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton told the group that the occupant of the apartment on the premises of the kennel in the zoning change must be an employee of the kennel and is assumed to be a 24-hour caretaker of the kennel. Thus the owners of the property could not use one property for the business of the kennel and the other as another rental property for financial gain. Sweeton encouraged the group to fight the dog kennel at the Warwick Planning Board meetings if they want to see results.
Sweeton added that the Town will accept written testimonies about the zoning change until Thurs., Apr. 26. The next step for the neighbors is to attend a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Mon., Apr. 23. The kennel is expected to receive two variances at the meeting due to their lack of ability to meet the 300 feet required distance from residences. One variance is for 20 feet and the other is for 120 feet, according to Justin Sussner.
The zoning change states that a person must have three acres of land to have three dogs and six acres of land to have six dogs. Any more than six dogs, the site is considered a kennel and must apply for proper licensing.
Finally of note, a large commercial solar field, which is a place of 200 acres with 60 percent coverage of solar panels, must be placed adjacent to or encompassing a transmission line so as to not disrupt the natural beauty of the Town with wires running for miles from the field to the lines.