Bucks County Herald

Doggie day care pits neighbor against neighbor in Newtown Township

STEVE SHERMAN

If last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting in Newtown Township is any indication, then Zoning Hearing Board Chair Tim Potero and his group has a tough decision to make regarding the Sit Stay doggie daycare/kennel on Washington Crossing Road.

The five-member ZHB is tasked with deciding whether Sit Stay owner Heather Roberts will be granted a permit to continue to operate the business on 18 acres of property situated along the 500 block of Washington Crossing Road.

The Sit Stay website says the kennel has been in business since 2003 though neighbors say the noise from barking dogs has become a problem only recently. While the owner says she has a license from the state, township officials say she did not have a permit to operate a kennel in Newtown.

Roberts is seeking a variance that would permit the kennel to exist on a parcel that is less than 25 acres, the minimum size needed according to township zoning laws.

Planning Commission Chair Allen Fidler says the commission is favorable to the continued agricultural use of the property and sees the kennel as an ancillary use consistent with agriculture.

“As evolution takes place, animal husbandry may not be a service that is greatly demanded today,” said Fidler.
“Animal services are a growing need in a residential-based community.”

“Is there a benefit?,” asked Fidler.

“If, you’re a customer, there is. If you’re a neighbor, maybe not.”

Warren Keyser, who owns a 12-acre horse farm adjacent to the Roberts property, is one of those neighbors.

“The idea that this has been happening for some number of years is a complete farce. Roberts Nursery was a quiet place,” said Keyser.

“The neighborhood has had a nightmare for the last two summers – bad last year and horrific this year.”

“Fifty dogs is a lot of dogs to be out in the yard barking and screaming all day long.”

Sit Stay is not without its supporters. More than 5,800 advocates have signed a petition at change.org in support of the township’s granting the variance.

Fidler says the Planning Commission favors granting the relief requested by Roberts, though no formal recommendation was made.

The Roberts family has operated a farm at the location since 1953, and in the past, they’ve grown the green ground cover pachysandra. The preservation of 18 acres of farmland and the economic viability to sustain it is what is at stake, say those who want to see the kennel stay.

“If we really want to maintain open space around here, we have to make it viable,” said Anne Porter, of Tall Oaks Lane.

“We have too many pieces of land that get donated because that’s the only way they can be preserved.
“After they’re donated, they’re not really farms anymore.”

Marian Disken, of Newtown Borough, boards her dog at Sit Stay. She said there are never 50 dogs on the property at the same time and that they’re rotated through both in- and outdoor play yards.

However, some supervisors questioned whether a dog kennel was appropriate use of the property, consistent with its zoning, which is CM, or conservation management.

“Ag use is equivalent to having a dog kennel on the property?” asked Supervisor Vice Chair Linda Bobrin. “My understanding is that the property doesn’t meet the requirements for the business that’s on it.”

Township Solicitor David Sander chimed in.

“I don’t believe a kennel is an agricultural use; clearly, I think, it’s a commercial use,” added Sander.




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