After invoking the residential character of properties along North Seed Tick Road, the Dawson County Planning Commission recommended denial of a special use permit for Barkville Dog Rescue’s proposed site there during its Feb. 15 meeting.
The Board of Commissioners will vote to ultimately approve or deny the permit at their voting session on March 17 in the Dawsonville courthouse's second-floor assembly room. This voting session will immediately follow the 4 p.m. work session.
“Currently we have a residential area. The [comprehensive] plan shows it as residential…and the special use would not be residential?”, said John Maloney, planning commissioner for District 2, where the proposed site is located.
“No sir,” replied chairman Jason Hamby before the board voted to recommend denial.
Barkville Dog Rescue is a Jasper-based 501(c) 3 nonprofit. Its co-founder, Kimberly Murphy, said the organization has helped save 2,000 dogs since it started in 2016. They previously housed dogs at her large personal property in Pickens County, but now Murphy has moved to Dawson County, and she would not be living on the new kennel site if it comes to fruition.
Even before the planning commission meeting, concern about the possible rescue location was ripe on the “Focus on Dawson” Facebook group. Most people voiced concern with noise, runoff and safety, and several others complained about zoning changes.
For clarification, Murphy stated in a follow-up post on the Facebook group and at the meeting that her organization is not asking to have zoning changed. Their special-use permit application falls under the current residential-agricultural zoning in the area.
On the 20-acre site, Barkville intends to build a 5,000-square foot facility to house less than 35 dogs until they are adopted. The nonprofit is volunteer-run, and it intends to have a live-in or overnight person on premises to monitor the dogs.
Preliminary architectural renderings show planned play, enrichment and training areas in addition to inside facilities at the property, tax parcels 092-008 and 092-008-002.
The indoor kennel facilities would be air-conditioned, according to the permit application. Planning staff recommended a 200-foot setback from all property lines for the main building and outdoor structures and a minor plat to combine the parcels and have a 50-foot setback from creeks and streams. Staff also recommended a limit of 30 dogs and a minimum 10-foot buffer of evergreen plants along the property’s border with tax parcels 092-109 and 092-110 to the north.
Kimberly Murphy said in writing and at the meeting that they’d be willing to work with architects and landscaping professionals to maximize the plant buffer.
She also emphasized their intention to ensure the kennel would be constructed with a minimal impact on the area and reiterated that that line of thought went into why the nonprofit purchased such a large piece of property.
Adjacent property owner Charles Pritchett, who purchased 65 acres about two years ago, said he’s preparing to build his retirement home at the back of his property, which borders Barkville’s 20 acres. He said his house will be 50 feet from the property line when constructed and mentioned noise and runoff concerns. He pointed out that the proposed site’s geography really only allows for structures on a ridge near one of the lakes or large ponds.
“I think it’s a great thing to do to rescue animals, and I’m all for saving animals…but I really, adamantly feel like this is the wrong area,” he said.
Charles’ son, Steven Pritchett agreed and added that his shop where he does his daily business is less than 600 feet from the property line. Also, Steven owns part of one of the lakes that’s also on the Barkville property.
Mike Garcia, a developer who’s lived in Dawson County since 1996, mentioned the man’s business that was shut down along North Seed Tick Road in recent years and recommended the nonprofit seek property further north or west.
Adjacent property owner Cheryl Crane also cited the shuttered business and said her handicapped husband and niece’s safety could be at risk if dogs were to get loose, since they aren’t able to defend themselves.
“In rescue [work], we visit a variety of shelters around the Atlanta metro area,” said Barkville board member Roy Podolin. “I’ve parked out at various shelters where there are 20-plus dogs in the building, and when I pull in and park my car there, I cannot hear any barking. The majority of the day, the intention is [that] the dogs will be inside the facility, with the exception of exercise during normal periods.”
Adjacent property owner Dan Matthews pointed out that the kennel could end up violating Dawson County’s own noise ordinance if dogs are barking for 10 minutes continually or for
30 minutes on an intermittent basis.
Another supporter of the rescue, Carla Cobb, pointed out the plans for gating around the planned premises, its proposed distance of more than 600 feet from the road and the nearest neighbor and the nonprofit’s intent to rehabilitate the two ponds near the back of the property.
Tom Chandler, whose family-in-law owns farmland bordering the back of the proposed kennel property, questioned why the particular land was chosen for the kennel, given the different topographical challenges.
He said that the dam on one of the ponds “is in desperate need of repair” so that it doesn’t burst and run across Charles Pritchett’s property.
In addition to duckweed and algae, he said drains on the one pond aren’t working and could exacerbate the dam issue.
“We have cows, chickens, goats and sheep. If any of those dogs get out or they become a problem…they could get into the pasture and that could become a problem for them (the in-laws) because that’s their livelihood,” Chandler said.
Another speaker was Don Walton, resident and chairman of the homeowners association for the nearby Crooked Tree development. Citing factors like noise, runoff, traffic and kids playing in the area, he thought having the rescue there would impact property values.
“We pay a lot in taxes, and if our property values are impacted as a result of allowing this facility to open up…then it will have an impact on the taxable income of the residents as well,” he said. “I think most of the people opposed, and I’ve talked to a number of them…[they] are all for a rescue center…it’s just unfortunate that they’re trying to put it in a residential area.”
Greg Allshouse, another Crooked Tree resident, asked about the potential for the kennel or rescue capacity to grow.
“Twenty-eight dogs today…how many dogs is that in five years? Do they expand? They’ve got 20 acres. They said they’re barely using a tiny part of the 20 acres,” he said. “I have no reason not to believe that 28 could become how many…[and] that’s a little scary in our neighborhood.”
He added that of the speakers who reside around North Seed Tick Road, he “hadn’t heard a single person here saying, ‘We should put this in this residential part of Dawsonville, and I live right beside it, so that’s where it should go.’”