The Clarke County Supervisors modified its zoning ordinances for breeding and boarding kennels on Tuesday night. Although the increased restrictions still leave Clarke as one of the most liberal jurisdictions in the area for raising canines, dog enthusiasts left the meeting threatening to cancel future dog show events. In other business, the Clarke County Supervisors adopted sweeping reforms to the county’s storm water management provisions intended to protect both local as well as regional resources.
Twenty-two dog enthusiasts filled the Clarke County Government Center to plead for the Supervisors to “let sleeping dogs lie” arguing that throughout the legislative process that produced the zoning changes not one citizen had voiced concerns about dog noise or other problems.
Planning Commissioner Cliff Nelson (Russell) spoke to remind the Supervisors that the Planning Commission had forwarded their proposed ordinance, approved by an 8-2 majority, with a 20-dog limit rather than the more restrictive 10-dog limit later proposed by the Board of Supervisors.
“At no time during the many months that the ordinance was worked on by the Planning Commission did any citizen come forward to offer a dog complaint,” Nelson told the Supervisors.
Alice Harrington, a representative for the Virginia Federation of Dog Clubs and Breeders, once again offered her now oft-asked question about why the Supervisors were considering any change at all to the rules governing Clarke County’s dog breeding and boarding regulations.
“I started participating in the discussion of this issue in March 2010,” Harrington said. “In all that time and in all those meetings I did not hear one valid reason to justify this proposal to require a $5,000 special use permit from dog owners with 10 or more dogs who want to have a litter of puppies.”
At Tuesday’s session Harrington finally got her answer.
“The origin of the issue was generated by staff,” Planning Administrator Chuck Johnston said at the meeting. “Boarding kennels already require a special use permit for more than twenty dogs and staff saw the lack of a similar requirement for breeding kennels as inequitable.”
“To a neighbor it doesn’t matter if the kennel is boarding or breeding, dogs are dogs,” Johnston said.
Based on public comments at the hearing at least one citizen believed that the breeding restrictions were based on other motives.
James Lamphier said that his family had been raising Red Setters in White Post for over 50 years. Lamphier said that he currently has seven champion dogs over eight years old.
“These dogs are like our children,” Lamphier said. “If this new regulation is due to a falling out over dogs running loose from a hunt club then you need to settle your differences elsewhere,” Lamphier said.
Dave Simmons, who raises Dachshunds in Boyce, voiced a fear repeated several times by speakers during the meeting.
“I don’t want to be put into a position where I have to put my old dogs down because I can’t afford this fee.”
Jerry Howse, an officer of the Shawnee Kennel Club, voiced similar concerns. “We have seven dogs over ten years old that are no longer breed-able,” Howse said. “Without a special use permit we’d have to euthanize those dogs. That’s not right, these restrictions are totally unrealistic.”
Planning Administrator Johnston dispelled House’s concern later in the meeting by reassuring the attendees that zoning changes are always â€˜future tense’.
“The zoning changes being considered tonight will not apply to any existing operations,” Johnston said. “If a resident can demonstrate that they were conducting the activity before the restrictions were adopted the activity will be ‘grandfathered’ under the previous rules.”
Although the Supervisors split on their decision to ultimately adopt the more restrictive regulations -Hobert (Berryville), Dunning (White Post) and Staelin (Millwood) in favor; Weiss (Buckmarsh ) and Bryd (Russell) opposed – the ordinance was weakened to apply to instances of 15 animals or more rather than the more restrictive ten initially considered.
Despite the quantity compromise resulting in a higher threshold before a special use permit will be required, many dog owners will still be dissatisfied with the Supervisor’s action.
“This wasn’t a compromise,” Alice Harrington said after the meeting. “This was a unilateral action.”
Jane Lodge, president of the Old Dominion Kennel Club, said that her club exhibits in tandem with the Shawnee Kennel Club and planned to follow Shawnee’s lead on where to host future dog shows.
“If Shawnee pulls out of exhibiting in Clarke County we’ll be forced to do so also,” Lodge said.
Jerry Howse said that the Shawnee Kennel Club will consider relocating its dog shows at venues other than Clarke County’s Ruritan Fairgrounds in the future.
“We’ve had meetings and discussed leaving,” Howse said. “The previous indication was that we would pull out if this change passed. Clarke County just became animal unfriendly.”
Even with the new zoning changes Clarke County’s rules are significantly less restrictive than neighboring jurisdictions. Warren County requires a special use permit for more than five dogs while Loudoun County restrictions begin with more than six dogs.
Although the new breeding and boarding regulations apply to cats as well as dogs, no enthusiast chose to defend the feline perspective.
In other business, the Supervisors unanimously passed the County’s new storm water management ordinance. Supervisor Dunning was not present for the vote.