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Lancaster County Council members shot down a rezoning request by an Indian Land nonprofit that would have allowed it to build a no-kill animal shelter.
At its Oct. 8 meeting, council addressed a request by PAWS in the Panhandle owner Gloria Davey to rezone property at 10681 Barberville Road from an R-15P moderate density residential/agricultural district to a B-2 community business district.
The move would have allowed the nonprofit dog rescue and adoption organization to build an indoor no-kill animal shelter.
There were two issues facing council: Second reading of an ordinance amendment to define and add nonprofit animal shelters as a permissible use in certain zoning districts and first reading of the rezoning request.
Lancaster County Planning Commission had previously recommended denial of the rezoning request, citing parking, traffic and the number of animals at the facility as concerns.
The issue drew a houseful of supporters and opponents eager to express their opinions.
Some supporters, such as PAWS in the Panhandle volunteer Ellie Heer of Indian Land, cited the county’s need for a no-kill animal shelter as a response to the county animal shelter, which they say kills thousands of abandoned animals a year.
Heer called the county shelter and others like it “death camps.”
“If you’ve ever walked through these shelters, you see these animals in their cages and they all come running to the front; you see the look in their eyes and they don’t know why they’re there,” Heer said. “It’s very hard to look at these animals and say, ‘I can’t take you in. I have no place to keep you.’
“We want to put up a no-kill shelter where we can take care of these animals,” she said. “So we just ask that you keep in mind these animals have rights, too.”
Some opponents, most of whom lived near the proposed shelter, such as Kristen Storie, took issue with PAWS in the Panhandle’s efficacy in fostering and adopting out animals.
Others took issue with the potential traffic problems in the area and the effects of a B-2 zoning slippery slope they said would come with such rezoning.
Jack Patterson, who lives in the Carolina Acres subdivision near the PAWS in the Panhandle location, was among the first to speak out against Davey’s request, saying he was worried the rezoning would lead to another “mishmash” of zoning on Barberville Road akin to that on U.S. 521.
“I think the council made a wise, logical decision. I think it was the right decision,” Patterson said. “I think they had the right concern that it would have been a domino effect (of B-2 zoning).
“There’s a right place and a wrong place for everything, and this is not the right place for a thrift store and a kennel,” he said.
Most opponents decried what they said was in essence a good thing, as long as it wasn’t near their homes.
“As the owner of a new home, I do not want a kennel across the street,” neighbor Nathan Dills said. “I don’t have dogs and I don’t want to hear dogs.
“We don’t want the traffic and we don’t want to see yard sale signs everywhere and a thrift store selling what is a bunch of junk really,” he said. “Save the animals, it’s a really good thing – we just don’t want it here.”
In her defense of the request, Davey rebutted Storie’s assertions and asked council members to keep in mind to make their decisions on the merits of the request only.
Davey said a nearby landscaping company was zoned B-2 already and said the owners of properties adjoining hers have no opposition to the shelter. Contrary to residents’ characterizations, the shelter itself was to be built at the back of the 3-acre property, away from the handful of homes in the immediate area, she added.
“We are not in a neighborhood and not in this ‘quiet residential setting,’” Davey said. “The noise that comes from the landscaping company would supersede any noise that would come from us.
“We just hope you can see it in your hearts to help us continue to help Lancaster County,” she said.
During discussion of the ordinance amendment to allow such shelters as permissible uses in B-2 districts, Indian Land’s District 1 Councilman Larry McCullough said he’d visited the location and felt as if he’d gained a better understanding of the issue.
Still, McCullough recommended, and council agreed, that the ordinance be sent back to the planning commission to add limits on the number of allowable animals at the shelter and/or a minimum amount of square footage for each animal.
During the rezoning discussion, council members made their opinions clear.
“I am usually the one up here fighting to support people in what they want to do with their property,” said District 3 Councilman Cotton Cole. “But in this case ... I would not want this shelter up there built next to me.
“It don’t matter how it’s built, you’re going to hear it and smell it,” he said. “I’m all for helping dogs, but it should be somewhere else.”
District 2 Councilwoman Charlene McGriff agreed.
“To want to save animals is a wonderful thing,” she said. “The question is, do we listen to the people who live in that neighborhood, or the people who just go in and out of that neighborhood?”
While McCullough commended Davey and PAWS in the Panhandle for their work and mission, he said he could not support the rezoning request until the county developed a master plan and streamlined zoning definitions.
“Over the last two to three years, I have not supported B-2 or B-3 zoning in Indian Land,” McCullough said. “Again, until those definitions change, I cannot support any B-1, B-2 or B-3 zoning.”
With that, council voted unanimously, 6-0, to deny the rezoning, which killed the rezoning request. Chairwoman Kathy Sistare was not at the meeting.
After the meeting, Davey was disappointed, but said she was not going to give up on her plans, including future requests for rezoning.
“We don’t feel defeated, we feel delayed,” Davey said. “Nothing changes for us. We’re going to continue doing what we do. This just gives us more time to raise more building funds to build it when we do get approval.”