The Belladoggie “resort spa for dogs” at the edge of the Irish Channel was reprimanded by the city this week for excessive noise after neighbors complained and played a recording of predawn barking and howls for a city administrative-hearing officer.
Further, the zoning change that the owners received in 2007 isn’t appropriate for business that opened in 2011, said hearing officer Daphne McNutt. She told the owner to apply for special permission from the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustments.
She didn’t levy any fines against the business, but she told owner Kim Dudek to get the noise under control and seek the new permission within three months.
Neighbors Naomi and Trevor Smith were one of the sources of the complaints that brought Dudek before the administrative hearing. These hearings are meant to resolve violations of city zoning codes or municipal ordinances, and hearing officers can issue fines of up to $500 a day for violations.
Dudek was charged with two violations: Minor signage issues and operating outside of the scope of permitted use.
Dudek won approval six years ago from the city to change the zoning at 815 Washington Ave. from two-family residential to neighborhood-business district.
But Safety and Permits Department staffer Ed Horan explained at the hearing that doggy day care wasn’t a specific use under the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. To accommodate a dog-boarding facility, the zoning specifics needed to be cobbled together, he said.
Horan said a domestic animal kennel is not allowed in a residential neighborhood and that the neighborhood-business zoning that the business is operating under would be appropriate for an animal hospital.
Belladoggie offers day care, overnight boarding, rehab services and grooming.
Dudek said she has no outside kennels, and the only time the dogs are outside is to relieve themselves and to get some exercise, a distinction which did little to alleviate the concerns of the neighbors who claim dogs are left outside for hours at a time.
The 24,000-square foot-building, built in 1951, was last in use as a home for “abused, abandoned and neglected children” according to the City Planning Commission staff report from 2007.
The outdoor area, which is at the heart of the Smiths’ complaints, features an outdoor swimming pool for dogs along with a large exercise yard.
At the hearing, the Smiths played a raucous recording that was time stamped before 7 a.m., and Trevor Smith said the noise is a frequent occurrence, easily heard from inside their home on Sixth Street, which shares a back property line with Belladoggie.
Naomi Smith is pregnant with twins and expressed concern about being able to stay home with her newborns. She and her husband said holiday family gatherings are impossible due to the increase in noise during a time when more people travel and board their dogs.
Dudek admitted that during the holidays, as many as 100 dogs can be at the facility and that the increase affected the number of dogs outside at any given time.
In making the case for her 2007 zoning request, Dudek said she was “not interested in kenneling a large number of dogs.” She said she expected to have “26-30 boarding, 12 in rehab and 10 to 12 grooming with an average of 50 dogs.”
In making her ruling, McNutt said that the zoning change which allowed the business “had been stretched to the absurd.”