continued “I think people are waiting for this,” Ault said. “We have had lots of requests for us to spay and neuter dogs and we just can’t do that now in our current facility, so this will help us fulfill that need for pet owners.”
During the summer, she said the APF sees “litter after litter of kittens” coming through the doors, but there are not enough homes to house the pets. Spaying and neutering animals allows the APF to tackle the root of the overpopulation dilemma.
The nonprofit animal shelter, located at 53 Maple Ave., first pursued a use variance to help expedite the project. Getting a use variance typically takes around two months, but a zoning change is a more lengthy process.
“We can’t wait another six months to go through that step,” Luigi Palleschi, an engineer representing the APF, said during the June 11 Planning Commission meeting.
The APF was planning to seek a zoning change after it received the use variance, so construction wouldn’t be delayed.
Margaret Huff, attorney for the commission, said one standard needed for granting a use variance is the applicant can’t realize a financial return on the property without it. Huff said the APF is already gaining revenue from the current spay and neuter clinic.
Palleschi argued the town created a hardship on the APF by rezoning the property, leading to the use variance petition.
“We are not creating the self hardship, the town created it by rezoning it,” he said. “They need to move this process so they can modernize their facilities.”
Commission members continued to say the APF was unlikely to receive a use variance from the town Zoning Board of Appeals and urged the group to start petitioning for a zoning change.
In APF’s written argument, it said if a use variance is not awarded, it would need to sell the facility and relocate to construct a new one, at a cost “conservatively” estimated to total $1 million. The current facility was built in 1993 for $1.3 million.
Commission member Thomas Bodden said that claim is outlandish.
“They’d rather move than wait two months? … That’s ridiculous,” Bodden said.
Commission members expressed support for the zoning change, which would also allow the approval process for any future expansions or projects to proceed more smoothly.