CHATHAM, Va. — The Pittsylvania County Zoning Appeals Board denied an application Monday night for a special use permit for a dog boarding and grooming business in the Blairs area.
“Although we live in a residential area, this new property is secluded, surrounded by trees and is zoned for business,” said Patricia Barker, the petitioner. “I bought the property in hopes that one day I could use this property to do something with dogs.”
The property, which encompasses nearly 5 acres, is located on Woodlake Drive just off Highway 29 in Blairs. Barker opted not to attend the zoning board meeting in person – but several opposition neighbors made the trip to Chatham that night.
“I am here tonight on behalf of the majority of residents of the Woodlake Drive neighborhood,” said attorney Hunter Byrnes of Byrnes Gould Law in Danville. “The neighbors are objecting to the special use permit and are asking you tonight to deny the permit. There are a myriad of reasons why they are against it.”
By a narrow margin, the Pittsylvania County Planning Commission voted 5-3 on July 6 to deny Barker’s rezoning application, thus sending him to the appeal board. The planning commission would end up being much more lenient with Barker than the zoning board.
“It’s a great neighborhood. When you walk down Woodlake, there’s nowhere to walk except on the road, so any traffic coming in – you’re in danger if you’re a pedestrian,” said neighbor Nancy Horton, a 26-year-old Woodlake Drive resident who retired to northern Pittsylvania County.
“The road itself is a terrible road. I had the DOT resurface the road a year and a half ago, but the road is still in poor condition,” Horton said. “We really need you to look at this situation and deny it. We need a quiet community with very little traffic.”
Board member Ronald Merricks moved the motion to deny the application, which was seconded by board member Carroll Yeaman. The denial passed unanimously, 6-0 with one absentee.
“Everyone has the right to enjoy peaceful property,” Merricks said in his rationale for the denial.
It was noted that if council could think of a way to mitigate the adverse conditions that were presented, council would be required to approve a special use permit.
“I worked at a fast and stressful pace for 16 years and after having a heart attack last year I decided it was time for a change,” Barker said in his plea. “I love dogs, as we have seven of our own, so I decided to get into a business where I could groom dogs.”
Byrnes presented the council with a petition signed by 14 owners expressing their opposition to Barker’s business proposal.
“Half of those are from extra traffic in a residential area,” Byrnes explained. “The other half have that worry, but they also have the worry about noise, the possibility of dogs coming out and things of that nature.”
The property is currently zoned B-2, implying a commercial entrance on Highway 29 would render the argument moot.
“The burden and the number of citizens who would be negatively affected outweighs the benefits and the number of citizens who would benefit,” Byrnes said.
In other news, the Zoning Appeals Board voted Tuesday night to approve a special use permit for a 14-acre event venue at Gentry Farms on Clarks Mill Road in Ringgold. Pittsylvania County Community Development Manager Emily Ragsdale noted that Gentry Farms has been operating as an event venue so far without the required special use and building permits.
On Yeaman’s motion and seconded by council member Ann Deering, the Pittsylvania County Zoning Appeals Board approved the Special Use Permit unanimously by a vote of 6-0 with one absentee.