New regulations are almost finalized for commercial animal kennels in Durham, but the Planning and Zoning Commission was forced to continue the public hearing until next month’s meeting while awaiting approval from state agencies.
Due to revisions made at its May 1 meeting, the commission had to resubmit the proposed special regulations to the RiverCOG and South Central Regional Council of Governments before it could officially enact the new regulations. As of the commission’s May 15 meeting, only one had responded, halting a final vote. Both had previously approved the original draft.
The new regulations outline the requirements an applicant would need to meet before they submit a special permit application, which would still need to be presented to, and approved by, the commission.
The regulations would apply to commercial animal kennels, breeding establishments, animal training facilities, animal grooming facilities, animal day-care facilities and veterinarian facilities, specifically related to dogs and cats.
Overnight boarding would only be allowed animal kennels and veterinarian hospitals for “overnight medical care.”
The minimum parcel size for animal kennels, breeding establishments, training facilities and day-care facilities would be 10 acres in residential zones and 7 acres in commercial and industrial zones. Grooming and veterinarian facilities would require a minimum of 5 acres for residential zones, but have no acreage requirement in commercial or industrial zones.
These new rules also restrict outdoor hours of operations – for activities like running and training – to between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. All animals would need to be confined indoors between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m. Businesses are limited to no more than 50 animals per site and efforts to soundproof the property must be made.
The draft also includes a 150-foot setback from the property line for any structures housing animals, but the commission has been discussing how that detail could be changed.
Commission member Josh Eddinger said the 150-foot setback is too restrictive and should either be eliminated, reduced or made more of a suggestion than a rule.
“My fear on this ... is that we've crafted a regulation that essentially excludes almost all properties, because of the nature of that setback,” Eddinger said during the May 15 meeting.
He argues the regulation, with this setback, is a way to say the town allows these uses, but then excludes most properties from even qualifying.
Other commission members noted some level of setback is important for safety, but 150 feet isn’t necessary, and that the ultimate issue of noise control wouldn’t be solved by more acreage, since sound will travel without soundproofing measures anyway.
Commercial kennels previously appeared under the agriculture section of the zoning regulations, but in December the commission decided to remove the usage from the regulations entirely, with the intent to add them back in as a special exemption.
The special exception process would allow the commission to conduct a more detailed review of any future kennel plan, including adding conditions or requirements on the applicant in order to gain approval, according to commission chairman Frank DeFelice.
The change comes after multiple residents have complained of noise at a dog training facility already in town, in the area of Dunn Hill Road and Wallingford Road.
According to monthly reports obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, Resident State Trooper Larry Morello talked with resident(s) regarding complaints of dog training facilities in town at least four times between July and October last year.
In October, the issue was listed as “Investigation: Ongoing neighbor complaint regarding dog kennel issues with barking dogs.”
The public hearing is expected to officially close next month, at the commission’s scheduled June 5 meeting. Residents are able to provide comment to the commission at that time. The current regulations draft can be found on the Town of Durham website, under the Planning and Zoning Commission.
*An earlier version of this article was corrected to include animal kennels as a use that is permitted to have overnight boarding, in addition to veterinarian hospitals for overnight medical care.
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