The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners took action Thursday afternoon that will lead to a public hearing being held later this month regarding a request to allow animal kennels downtown.
This means citizens will get a chance to officially weigh in on proposed zoning changes required for that during another commissioners meeting on May 19 at 7 p.m. Meanwhile, the issue already has created a stir through online comments reacting to an earlier Mount Airy News article on the request.
On Thursday when taking action to schedule the public hearing, none of the council members commented on the proposed zoning ordinance changes or the general idea of animal kennels.
However, the possible move to permit kennels downtown was questioned by Paul Eich, a local citizen who spoke during a public forum at Thursday’s meeting.
The proposal stems from a recent attempt by operators of the Bark and Meow pet store at 259 N. Main St. to open an indoor animal kennel at that location downtown. However, staff members of the city planning department learned about those plans and informed the operators that Mount Airy’s zoning laws do not permit such facilities in its B-1 (central business district) zone.
These are now allowed only in M-1 (industrial) areas.
That led Bark and Meow officials to seek zoning changes to permit the kennel under special requirements, which if approved will allow as many as 12 animals to be housed indoors at the business.
No other municipality in this area permits animal kennels of any kind, indoor or outdoor, in their central business districts, according to information from the planning office.
Although the Bark and Meow request “deviates greatly” from existing requirements for animal kennels, Planning Director Andy Goodall has pointed out, the Mount Airy Planning Board has opened the door for such facilities to operate downtown.
While expressing reluctance about kennels there due to the potential impact from noise and other factors, the planning board in late April recommended that the facilities be allowed on a conditional basis — only if certain restrictions are included.
One is that the entire operational area of an indoor kennel — including outdoor exercise and storage-refuse areas — be at least 150 feet away from any adjoining residential use or zoning district and at least 1,000 feet from any other kennel.
The planning board — an advisory group to the city commissioners — further recommends standards for soundproofing and outdoor exercise areas, including one to require such areas to be enclosed by an 8-foot-tall screening fence or wall.
Based on planning office information, the recommendations also would apply to other business zones, including B-2 (general business) and B-4 (highway business).
The fact that the public hearing won’t be held until May 19 hasn’t stopped some local residents from getting a head start on providing input by posting comments to a Wednesday article that disclosed the proposal. Most are not in support of kennels downtown, based on potential problems.
“Although it may seem like a good idea to the business owners, it’s not such a pleasant one for all of us who enjoy strolls and shopping downtown,” one person reacted.
“Also, not all visitors and neighbors are as appreciative of pets, which could put them off of the area. I think this business would be better suited on the outskirts of town.”
“Everybody likes dogs and some cats, but some people think they are more important than people,” another reader commented. “This is about the dumbest idea of the last five to 10 years.”
“If they make this allowance for this place, what is there to stop other places similar to this from opening downtown and would that then be detrimental? There is obviously a reason this is not allowed in other towns,” a third person wrote.
Yet there is some support for the kennel downtown, based on online comments.
“It is a hotel for dogs and there are no cages or animals left outside unsupervised,” one reader said of what is being proposed by Bark and Meow operators in addition to grooming services.
“This does go along with what they are trying to do for downtown Mount Airy. Over the past several years the downtown area has been trying to gear toward being more pet-friendly. This is just adding to that, with the grooming and now the hotel which will offer day care and boarding.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.