Plans to build a dog daycare in the Shops of Dunwoody shopping center near the Dunwoody West neighborhood has Maggie Warford barking mad.
“It’s a travesty,” she said. “This is not a commercial area. This is a residential area, and you don’t put a doggie daycare in a residential area.”
Warford and some of her neighbors who live on Trailridge Way and Hidden Branch Circle in the affluent neighborhood near Dunwoody Village protested the plans for a Camp Run-A-Mutt daycare at the Aug. 3 meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The dog-care business is set to go into the former Dunwoody Academy child day care center at the back of the Shops of Dunwoody shopping center and adjacent to Dunwoody United Methodist Church’s parking lot.
The new business needs to encroach on the 100-foot setback of the church’s parking lot, which, for reasons city officials do not know, is zoned residential.
The ZBA unanimously granted a variance allowing the encroachment and the church supported the city’s decision to do so in a letter to staff. The closest an actual residence is located to the dog-care business is more than 200 feet away.
City code allows commercial property, including animal care facilities, to be located within 100 feet of residential property.
That is simply too close, Warford said. Although her home is located several hundred feet from the planned dog daycare, Warford said the loud barking sure to come from the dozens of dogs at the facility will no doubt carry into her back yard and disturb her peace. She thinks it also will drive down property values for all residents in Dunwoody West.
“We’re caught between a rock and a hard place because the city doesn’t distinguish what kind of commercial property is allowed within 100 feet of residential,” she said. “It’s going to be pandemonium back there.”
Blair Sperry, owner of the local Camp-Run-A-Mutt, told ZBA commissioners at the Aug. 3 meeting the extra 100-feet was needed for a planned dog run, where the pets would be allowed to play outside at various times during the day. The dogs would be housed indoors at night with a staff member on site 24-hours a day, he said.
Mike Lowery, an agent for the Shops of Dunwoody, said Camp-Run-A-Mutt is a “high end” dog-care center.
“I’ve lived in Dunwoody for 30 years and I wouldn’t do anything to damage the community in any way,” he said. “The community needs service uses in this area. We fully intend to develop this shopping center.”
Camp-Run-A-Mutt’s facility will use 7,000 square feet of the former daycare center that includes a small outdoor playground.
“Basically the dogs will stay indoors and there will not be dogs wildly barking … the nearest house is well over 200 feet away, which is double the requirement,” Lowery said.
Church Administrator Jim Boyea said that Shops of Dunwoody was the only property owner to contact the church before the vote.
“While we did agree to the variance, we were not involved in the actual approval of the request,” he said.
At the Aug. 14 City Council meeting, Councilmember Pam Tallmadge, who attends DUMC and who represents the Dunwoody West residents, asked staff members to research the possibility of limiting the types of commercial businesses, such as dog-care facilities, that can be located near residential property.
She also asked staff members to report back with a more detailed report on the city’s animal nuisance code that currently prohibits “long and continued noise.”
Tallmadge declined to discuss further the zoning complaint because she said residents have 30 days to appeal the Aug. 3 ZBA ruling to DeKalb Superior Court. Warford and others wrote letters to the city threatening a lawsuit if the variance was approved.
Warford said she did consult with an attorney, but was told the residents have no real claim. The attorney explained to Ward that Camp-Run-A-Mutt could choose not to seek 100 feet of DUMC parking lot, but could legally build out into an adjacent wooded lot and cut down trees for the dog run.
“We have no recourse, and I’m very upset with the church” for supporting the variance request, Warford said. “The church is supposed to be about love thy neighbor … Well, they screwed their neighbor.”
She also tore into the Shops of Dunwoody owners for leasing space to a doggie daycare that she and other neighbors say does not fit in with the character of the center that includes restaurants and boutique shops.
“They don’t give a damn about the people that support the shopping center,” she said. “This [Dunwoody West] community supports the church and the Shops of Dunwoody and they show total disregard for this community. We are livid.
“We are going to hear the noise,” she said. “I’ve lived here 25 years in the quiet, serene neighborhood with my trees. The city needs to establish a new code for affluent neighborhoods. We have to have stronger codes.”