NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP _ Plans for an upscale daycare center and hotel for dogs in the Newtown Business Commons is facing opposition from a nearby residential community.
During a meeting of the planning commission, Fred Kurtz, president of the Newtown Gate Townhouse Owners Association, spoke against plans for Doggy Dayz, raising concerns over noise and cut through traffic.
"We certainly have many concerns. Our neighborhood is a cut through for people who work in the office park. We know this traffic will go through our community," said Kurtz. "Additionally, we're all dog lovers. Every member of our board except one has a dog. This is not about dogs. We support them in their efforts to open in Newtown. But we would encourage them to look on the other side of the office park."
New Jersey-based K-9 Resorts is scheduled to appear before the township’s zoning hearing board in March seeking variances to convert an 8,000 square foot portion of a business/warehouse building at 8 Pheasant Run into an upscale daycare center and hotel for dogs. They were appearing before the planning commission to seek its support of its zoning appeal.
K-9 is seeking a use permit to open the facility in the light industrial zone. Under the township ordinance, such a use is only permitted in agricultural zones with a minimum of 25 acres.
K-9 said it plans on making a significant investment of between $1.2 to $1.4 million to fit out the space at 8 Pheasant Run with a state-of-the-art leased area for its high end daycare and boarding service.
In addition to the interior fit out, an outdoor space is planned, including separate exercise yards for small and large dogs and a one-on-one exercise yard. The yards would be enclosed by an eight foot high fence.
The proposed Newtown K9 Resort would serve up to 120 dogs, providing both luxury boarding and doggy daycare services in a state-of-the-art facility next to Baylinks and across Terry Drive from Francesco’s.
“Our purpose is to be a home away from home where dogs love to stay and play and owners know that they are cared for on a five star level,” said Tim Katsch, the Vice President of operations for K-9 Resorts. “We specialize in what dogs enjoy - having a nice place to stay overnight and dog daycare.”
Kurtz told the planners that the Newtown Gate HOA has retained legal counsel and is prepared to fight the zoning appeal in court.
The proposed location of Doggy Dayz is located within 600 feet of the eastern end of Newtown Gate, a townhouse community located off of Fountain Farm Lane and South State Street.
“Whether it’s one residence, eight residences or 1,000 residents within earshot of a 1765 square foot outdoor space, it is our responsibility to advocate for their peace, tranquility and value of their property,” Kurtz told the planners.
“This is within a 600 foot line of sight with nothing in between. Fences can only go so high. Sound travels above them,” he said.
Attorney Bryce McGuigan, representing K-9 Resorts and franchisee, Doggy Dayz LLC, defended the plan, arguing that what is being proposed is not a typical kennel filled with barking dogs. And he invited the leaders of the HOA to visit their location in nearby Hamilton, New Jersey.
“Within a 40 mile radius of here there are six different K-9 Resort franchises. Every single one of them is within 1,000 feet of a residential community, some of them within 400, 200 and 100 feet. In terms of where we are here, I believe there are about eight houses within 1,000 feet of the outdoor proposed play area,” said McGuigan. “In Malvern there are easily 1,000 residential units within that same 1,000 feet. And in all these areas there is not one concern in terms of how the business operates with respect to the neighbors.
“K-9 has not only invested significant time and effort into technologies to address noise reduction, whether that’s indoors or the outdoor play area, it has also gone to great lengths to prevent these situations from arising,” McGuigan continued. “We are not just going to let out dozens and dozens of dogs unsupervised. Here we will be installing noise reducing fencing that no other resort has. It’s going to be a tens of thousands of dollars outlay. We don’t want any issues. We don’t want any noise issues with the neighbors.”
“I understand the concerns and so does K-9,” said McGuigan. “That’s why the other locations work. That’s why we are here tonight.”
McGuigan told the planners that he and K-9 would be happy to meet with the HOA leadership and residents via a Zoom call. He also invited them to visit its Hamilton Township, N.J., facility near Quakerbridge Mall. “Take a tour, take a look and see what we’re about.”
Kurtz said he’d be willing to engage in a dialogue with K-9 Resorts if that’s the preference of the planning commission.
“But it’s going to be very hard because the applicant is looking to house 120 dogs in an outdoor space of 0.04 acres,” he said. “1765 square feet is about the first floor of my house and I try to imagine 120 dogs using that space in constant use with 550 feet between my house and that of my neighbor. There is a reason why these types of businesses are located in rural areas.
“This is very concerning to us,” said Kurtz. “I would encourage you to relocate this site,” he told the representatives of K-9 Resorts. “We’re willing to hear what you have to say, but we’re also willing to fight this.”
The planners took no official action except to encouraged the HOA and K-9 Resorts to meet via Zoom in an attempt to reach a consensus on the application.
After listening to the discussion, Planning Commission Chairman Allen Fidler said the applicant will need to satisfy a number issues raised by the HOA before moving forward, including its close proximity to a residential neighborhood, noise abatement for its outdoor dog exercise area and the potential of cut through traffic.
“If a consensus is not reached, it will come back to the planning commission and impact our recommendation to the board of supervisors,” said Fidler.
The applicant also will need to address several areas of traffic concern raised by the planners, including parking, internal traffic flow and ingress and egress to the site.
The planners are expected to meet again on the issue on March 2, just two days before the appeal is scheduled to be heard by the township’s zoning hearing board.