Pet care center project raises sanitary questions

Best Friends Total Pet Care’s application to open a veterinary hospital/kennel in Wilton at 213 Danbury Road raised questions from commissioners at the June 13 Planning and Zoning meeting.

The public hearing for the project that would involve joining two structures on the property by building a hallway between them, as well as the installation of multiple indoor and outdoor dog runs, was opened May 23 and continued.

In response to staff comments and commissioners’ questions from May 23, Gregory and Adams attorney Casey Healy said on behalf of the applicant June 13 there would be 118 dog “suites” — meaning 118 dogs, maximum — and three indoor play areas.

“The outdoor play areas are screened with a solid wood plank fence which is six feet in height in order to shield dogs’ views to activity, stimulus, and motion outside of the play area,” Healy said.

“The dogs are attended by dog handlers when they’re taken to the outdoor play areas. They’re never left in the outdoor play areas unattended. If there are barkers in the group, the handlers will bring those dogs to an indoor play area, of which there are three,” he said.

Physical waste, according to Healy, will be “immediately collected and disposed of in designated containers, and then at the end of each day, the waste is removed from the containers and disposed of in a toilet that’s specifically designated for that purpose.

“Urine infiltrates through the porous canine turf just as it does through grass. The outdoor play areas are washed daily to dilute and further rinse the urine,” Healy said.

Secretary Doris Knapp, however, was not convinced.

“You say the area is washed daily to dilute and further rinse the urine,” she said. “Does that go into the soil? Does it possibly leach into people’s wells? What happens to this huge, huge, huge amount of diluted urine?”

Best Friends owner Alexandre Desmarais answered her and said, “It seeps through the soil,” and added, “I would just say that we have 38 pet care centers across the U.S. We’ve been in operation for 20 years. We have never had, to my knowledge, a complaint with contamination.”

“Well I don’t know how many of those [centers] have neighbors with abutting wells. It could be zero; it could be all, but that’s really a concern,” Knapp said.

“Well, the two abutting neighbors — Young’s Nurseries to the south and Wilton Hospital for Animals to the north — are on public water, as is this site, and Young’s Nurseries wraps around the building, so both sites that it abuts do not have private drinking wells,” Healy said.

“Young’s Nurseries, we know, is for sale, so we don’t know what Young’s Nurseries is going to be if and when that sale occurs,” Knapp said.

Commissioner Joe Fiteni pointed out that the portion of the Young’s Nurseries property that abuts 213 Danbury Road lies within a residential zone.

“The land is zoned residential, so if somebody were to buy the land and subdivide it, they have residential zoning. Those people would not be on the public water from Young’s, I wouldn’t believe.”

“Well they could be,” said Healy.

“They could be,” Fiteni said, “but they’d also have the right to put a well in because it’s residential land.”

Alan Spirer, the attorney for the owner of Wilton Hospital for Animals at 215 Danbury Road spoke against the 213 Danbury Road project on May 23, and returned June 13 to clarify his and his client’s position.

On May 23, he said that because the floor area ratio of the property in question is already nonconforming, the applicant cannot move forward, because Wilton’s zoning regulations forbid enlarging or expanding a pre-existing nonconformity.

In response to this, Healy said June 13 he would be going before the Zoning Board of Appeals June 20 to apply for a variance to increase the floor area ratio notwithstanding the current nonconformity.

Spirer, however, said June 13 that a variance would not be enough, because the Planning and Zoning Department requires that all zoning regulations be satisfied before issuing a special permit, which Best Friends Total Pet Care needs for the project.

“If they’re successful in getting a variance,” Spirer said, “they will be able to use the site for permitted use, but it’s our position that they cannot use the site for a special permit, because a special permit requires compliance with each and every one of your regulations, and Section 29-4.F. says you can’t increase a nonconformity, even with a variance.”

Ultimately, the hearing for Best Friends Total Pet Care’s application was again continued, this time to June 27.