The controversial Springtown Farmland commercial dog kennel is no longer coming to Denniston Road, but it could influence a change to the Town of Gardiner’s laws.
The applicant withdrew its special permit request just days following its Oct. 27 presentation to the Planning Board, but not after stirring concern and debate from Denniston Road residents and nearby neighbors, as well as from some members of the Planning Board itself.
“My argument at the Planning Board meeting is that the application is incomplete because the Gardiner kennel law requires certain things but then it also references the Agriculture and Markets law as well as a number of federal laws and there’s nothing here,” Planning Board member Josh Verleun said before the Town Board at its Nov. 10 meeting. “The Gardiner kennel law requires the Planning Board to make a finding that the kennel proposed complies with the law ... and there was no way that we could do that as a Planning Board.”
Verleun was one of the loudest Planning Board voices in opposition to the proposed kennel. A resident of Denniston Road himself, he worried the abundance of dogs would pose a safety and noise problem for the neighborhood. In the application, Springfield Farm had noted that the kennel would contain 26 separate living spaces for the animals, but in the same sentence wrote that there would be a total of 20 to 30 dogs on site at any given time.
Though not included in the application, the applicant’s consultant Matt Towne had said at the Planning Board meeting that the dogs would be Anatolian and Caucasion Shepherds, both clocking in weights between 150 and 175 pounds and both known for their territorial and protective nature. Further information was not included pertaining to the dogs.
“Does that include puppies? When you say 20 to 30 dogs - is that 29 females and one male? If you have 29 females you’re much more likely to have far more puppies than if you have an even split of 15 male 15 female,” Verleun explained his apprehension. He noted that the site is down the road from the Wallkill Rail Trail where hundreds of pedestrians walk with their own dogs, and raised concern that there may not be enough safety measures in place to prevent a confrontation. “The issue that I raised at the Planning Board meeting with the applicant was saying, ‘Hey I can see you have a building proposed, I can see the size of it, but I don’t know what you’re actually proposing. There’s no operations plan here.’”
The Springfield Farmland application had met all site plan requirements, as confirmed by Sterling Environmental Engineering, though it was recommended that the application be reviewed by Town of Gardiner Dog Control Officer Andrew McKee. The application was withdrawn before it became apparent whether it met Kennel and Dog Control Law standards.
Equipped with a letter of concern written by his wife Layla and signed by dozens of Denniston Road residents, Verleun asked the Town Board to consider looking into and potentially revising Gardiner’s law to avoid future discrepancies, especially if the Springfield Farmland applicant attempts to submit another dog kennel application. The current law, he argued, was too vague and could allow misconduct to legally slip through the cracks.
“How are we sure that these things are being reviewed in a consistent way that is both fair to a business owner but also protective of the community?” Verleun questioned. “I think there is a need for some more specificity in the law so that the Planning Board can adequately evaluate [applications]. There are a lot of site specific things that just aren’t obvious as requirements in our current kennel law.”
The Town Board members all responded positively to the proposal, each claiming that they were unaware how little they knew about the town’s kennel law.
“I was not aware of the inadequacies in our kennel law, but there seem to be quite a few just listening to what you had to say relative to one application that may be coming back around,” said Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic.
Town Board member David Dukler requested that Verleun bring in model legislation from other counties and states to compare with the current Gardiner law. Verleun said he and his wife would be happy to do the research.
“Good catch!” Deputy Supervisor Laura Walls said. “I don’t know much about dog kennels, but I do much appreciate the initiative, the problem solving you’ve brought forward.”