Squandered Heritage

Neighbors hope to get some relief after city tells doggy day-care center to muzzle noise

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.”

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use. With television reporter Lee Zurik she exposed widespread misuse of city recovery funds and led to guilty pleas in federal court. Her work attracted some of journalism's highest honors, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.

  • nickelndime

    If you listen to enough complaints from “people,” it’s easy to “turn on them.” It is rumored that a T-shirt company is preparing to print the following: “I used to be a people person, until I met ———–” (fill in the appropriate name/s). Here are some T-shirt suggestions: hearing officer Daphne McNutt; Naomi and Trevor Smith; Safety and Permits Department staffer Ed Horan.
    Naomi Smith is pregnant with twins (OMG! – A breeder!!!) LOL and rolling on the floor.

  • Tom Pennington

    Meanwhile, across the street at Nick’s Supermarket….

  • nickelndime

    “Anythings PAWSable”

  • nickelndime

    “ARF ARF ARF” (loud barking). I mean, how can anyone actually lodge a legitimate complaint in this third-world banana republic, with a straight face!? (realize that movie filming in this gawd4saken city under the elevated I-10 is being substituted for the Phillipines)? No, Mitch! Calm down, boy. That does not mean you should try to get rid of the elevated expressway on N. Claiborne. When this city goes under again (and it will, boy), how do you you expect people in the 7th Ward to get out? Oh, I see. That’s NOT part of the plan. Is this city going to the dawgs (excuse me, dogs!)? No, this city is NOT going to the dogs. I wish it were. That may provide some redemption for the individuals (a/k/a political candidates) who run for public office who may be married to felons, owe huge public debts, and/or owe nearly millions to the IRS. Now, don’t get misled. Mitch doesn’t owe anything to the IRS, but that doesn’t mean he is “clean.” Cuz he ayn’t (clean), cuz!