The Montgomery County Council defeated the ZTA to allow Pet Day Care in the Agriculture Reserve by a five to three vote on October 9, 2010. The County Council agreed with Park and Planning that the proper zoning route would be the Special Exception process. The special exception process covers all of the issues that were of concern to Sugarloaf Citizens Association.
A proposed zoning text amendment (ZTA 10-08) was introduced by Councilman Mike Knapp. To review that document click here. The staff of the Park and Planning staff recommended denial of the ZTA primarily on the basis that establishment of a pet day care business should go through the Special Exemption Permit process. The following is S.C.A.’s position on the issue.
S.C.A. Position Statement
Sugarloaf Citizens Association supports the Park and Planning denial of the ZTA 10-08 to allow Pet Day Care in the Agriculture Reserve. Any such boarding/day care camps should go through the Special Exception Permit Process. Pet boarding is allowed in the RDT zone by Special Exception Permit.
Sugarloaf Citizens Association is opposed to the ZTA, No. 10-08, permitting Pet Day Care in the Agricultural Zone, not only because it has nothing to do with the production of food and fiber (the primary purpose of the Agriculture Reserve), but also because this is another example of spot zoning where the needs of one person or company are being considered rather than the master plan of the Agriculture Reserve.
Spot zoning is not logical, it is not fair, and it is not good public policy. We find this ZTA objectionable as a sole-beneficiary legislation and as a dangerous precedent. As happened in the case of the ZTA for golf courses, it would open the door for others to pursue this non-agricultural business in the Ag Reserve. How will the county defend its position when someone wants to do this type of business on 25 acres? The Special Exception process monitors for the concerns we have for noise and waste management. The ZTA does not.
As the Gazette article reported on June 30, 2010, this ZTA is for the benefit of Tiffany Reynolds who operates a thriving boarding center for dogs in Frederick County. She wants to bus her canine boarders into Montgomery County for the day and back to Frederick County in the evening. S.C.A. is at a loss to find any positive thing that will come from this ZTA. Will Montgomery County even benefit from a commercial tax on this business? If the business originates in Frederick County, how will the taxes work? How will the division between the commercial property pet day care tax and the agriculture property tax be addressed? Will all the revenue taken in on the commercial pet care business go to Frederick County?
As stated, we totally oppose this ZTA. If it is passed, however, the following issues should be addressed in any final version.
- Existing agricultural use. Any pet day care permitted under an approved ZTA should have to be considered as an adjunct operation to existing farming operations of at least 75 acres or more. The size and location of any new building facilities should be in keeping with the agricultural area.
- Runoff/Waste Management. Any pet day care permitted under an approved ZTA should be required to follow a waste management plan to consider issues of increase in impervious surfaces and increased waste run off into the watershed The latest research says that pet owners should pick up their pet’s waste and dispose of it in the trash; this is better for the watershed. What plan will be in effect when you are talking about a mass group of pets?
- Canine population density. A study should be made of how many pets can be housed on the acreage in question. There is no mention of number of pets in the ZTA. The newspaper article stated twenty or thirty. We think a ceiling number should be chosen on some kind of scientific basis--not the success of the individual business is question.
- Noise pollution. Noise levels should be addressed. The sound of a mass group of barking dogs can be very invasive to neighboring residences. If the pet population is in constant flux (new dogs arriving and established dogs leaving) the barking will always be an issue as the animals sort out the dominance issue. Even dogs separated by a fence will continually bark at each other.
- Light pollution. Night light pollution should be controlled and full cut-off lighting be required in any approved ZTA.
- Traffic. The specification of the ZTA (lines 19-21) call for pets being transported to and from by the daycare provider. How could/would this be enforced? SCA feels there's a high likelihood that this provision would morph into owners driving their pets to the facility and creating an increase in traffic. Any approved ZTA should be specific about transportation requirements and limitations.
- Distance from existing residences. Any approved ZTA should require a distance of 1,000 feet from any neighboring residential building. 500 feet as specified in the proposed ZTA is very little distance when it comes to the sound of barking dogs and the lights from a facility, especially if the grounds of that facility are lit. Within the requirement of 75 acres, establishing1000 feet distance from existing residential buildings should not be a problem.
- Hours of operation. The ZTA states that there will be no overnight boarding. However, no operating hours are specified. Since day light hours seasonally change the hours of day boarding should be limited to a 9-hour period of operation.