Board of Zoning Appeals postpones voting on variance to allow six greyhounds on one property

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After hearing from the public and from attorney Gary Sallee, the Board of Zoning Appeals has continued its voting on a variance that could allow for a kennel in the Villages of Oak Manor for 30 more days.

Sallee represented resident Juliana Robertson, and during his presentation Sallee said the variance to allow for a kennel wouldn’t create a kennel as it’s commonly known to the public, but it would allow more than three dogs to live on Robertson’s property at one time.

The permitted uses for the Oak Manor Planned Unit Development currently only allow three or less pets per property. Robertson owns six senior greyhounds, and all six are siblings. The variance’s conditions make it clear the variance is for two years. Once the two years are up, some of the dogs may have died, bringing Robertson into compliance, or Robertson may have moved from the property.

“These dogs will be kept in an immaculately kept home as they have been for the last 11 years,” Sallee said. “All of Julie’s dogs are from a dog she previously owned that has expired. These dogs that she has have become her family, and they are family to one another.”

Sallee explained the dogs sleep 20 to 22 hours a day and that Robertson lets them out in pairs or in threes so not to disturb the neighbors. She feeds them a raw diet made from organic beef, grain and vegetables which she makes herself each week.

During the public hearing, several veterinarians and others spoke in favor of the BZA granting the variance, but other neighbors didn’t agree with Sallee’s statement of an immaculate home. Deanna Truitt lives in a house cornered to Robertson’s, positioned in a way which allows the Truitt family to see into Robertson’s yard.

Truitt said when she and her husband first purchased their home, she was on the patio when Robertson approached her “nonchalantly trying to discuss that she had dogs.”

“Until this came up, she would never say how many dogs she has,” Truitt said. “We have done improvements to our property in order to block out some of our view of what we had to deal with. This is an ongoing problem. It stinks to high heaven.”

Currently, Robertson’s property is undergoing yard improvements, and Truitt said Robertson only allows the dogs on one-third of her property while the improvements are being made. Robertson previously picked up the dogs’ waste and stored it in a container in her yard, but she has since moved the container to her garage.

Ed Higgins, the chairman of the Villages of Oak Manor Steering Committee, said he was concerned if this variance was passed, other variances would be passed in the city to allow for other dog breeds that may be more aggressive.

“The applicant goes to great lengths describing how quiet and docile her dogs are, and that may be so. However, we have concern about how granting this exception may be creating a precedent,” he said. “What if another owner in our Villages of Oak Manor or somewhere else in Westfield asks for an exception for Rottweilers or Pit Bulls or some other aggressive breed?”

Some BZA members had concerns regarding the amount of evidence needed to be in place for them to approve a variance. In addition, even if the BZA approved the variance, it wouldn’t overrule the covenants established by the HOA, and the HOA may then file a lawsuit against Robertson.

BZA President Bob Smith suggested Sallee and Robertson return in 30 days after they tried to reach a compromise with the HOA, and then the BZA would consider voting on the ordinance. Another public hearing will not be held.

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