Animal shelter special exception granted

By Stephanie Grinnell | Dec 24, 2013
Courtesy of: Camden Code Enforcement Office A rendering of changes to the building that housed Camden First Aid Association shows where PAWS officials anticipate filling in existing garage doors and removing pavement.

Camden — The animal shelter that serves eight communities expects to move from Rockport to Camden following approval of a special exception as a quasi-public facility.

P.A.W.S. contracts with Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville, Belfast, Northport, Searsmont, Liberty and Islesboro to care for homeless or abandoned dogs and cats. The Zoning Board of Appeals Dec. 19 approved the shelter's status as a quasi-public facility, which will allow it to operate from the former Camden First Aid Association building located at 123 John St.

The John Street building sits on slightly less than 4 acres, according to online assessment data. It was constructed in 2000 and housed Camden First Aid Association ambulances and offices until Camden First Aid closed its doors earlier this year. The building has more than 8,200 square feet of space.

The zoning of the building is V — Traditional Village — and the town ordinance describes its purpose as " ... to maintain these highly livable neighborhoods, which include single family homes, small-scale multifamily structures, compatible residential-scale businesses, and a distinct village design."

There were few objections to the proposal voiced, mostly regarding the potential for noise created by barking dogs.

First Vice President John Scholz said the shelter currently has a purchase and sale agreement for the property and presented a site plan concept to ZBA members prior to the meeting. The plan calls for nine outdoor dog runs as well as a fenced-in area for dogs. He said the existing garage doors will be bricked in and the garage area will house indoor, individual dog kennels with room for up to 20 dogs.

"At the present location [in Rockport], to our shelter manager's knowledge — no complaints of noise," Scholz said.

The dog park constructed a short time ago will remain under the management of the shelter but will not be moved, he said. A subcommittee will be formed to manage it.

Scholz noted there is expected to be a decrease in vehicle traffic from the former use and pavement will be removed, as it is anticipated less parking will be needed. Foot traffic, however, will increase due to volunteers walking the dogs on John Street and other side streets in the area.

Representatives of John Street Methodist Church said concerns about noise and traffic were most prevalent. A letter from the Garden Institute and Merry Gardens Housing Associates Board of Directors aired similar concerns as well as concerns about the definition of a quasi-public facility and if animal shelters were purposefully left out of the Traditional Village zone. Speaking on behalf of Garden Institute, Jon Kuhl said he is not aware of any noise complaints at the existing location but cautioned a comparison "could be apples to oranges."

Scholz noted the shelter is agreeable to installation of a privacy hedge or something similar to appease neighbors' concerns.

Once the ZBA was comfortable the shelter is a nonprofit as well as other criteria qualifying it as a quasi-public facility, discussions turned to concerns about noise.

"If you hear an occasional dog bark, it's to be expected," ZBA member Tom Laurent said.

The special exception was approved, with two conditions — the shelter provide documentation of its nonprofit status and landscaping issues to mitigate noise concerns be worked out between the shelter, code enforcement office and police.

Courier Publications Editor Stephanie Grinnell can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at sgrinnell@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect to correct spellings of Jon Kuhl and John Scholz's names and further explanation of Garden Institute and Merry Gardens Real Estate management's position.

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Stephanie Grinnell
(207) 236-8511 ext. 302
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Stephanie has served as editor of Camden Herald since its return in April 2012.

Previously, she was editor of VillageSoup's Capital Weekly in Augusta and has worked a number of years in the newspaper business from southern Maine to Waldo County.

Outside the office, she enjoys reading, cooking and gardening.

Stephanie lives in Washington with her husband Jeff, four children, a dog named Chewbacca, a rabbit and two chickens.

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