GROTON -- In a surprise development, a businesswoman who had hoped to locate a dog care business in an empty building adjacent to a condominium complex has apparently decided to end her quest for approval by the town's Zoning Board of Appeals.
The news came at the board's meeting of Aug. 7 when Groton Residential Gardens condominium association attorney Robert Anctil told members that it was his understanding that Pepperell resident Jillian O'Brien had "thrown in the towel." She had been seeking a special permit to allow her to open a dog care business at the intersection of Main and Mill streets in a building formerly occupied by Anytime Fitness.
The applicant had been pursuing the special permit for a few months but was facing increasing demands by the town's land use boards for information about how she intended to operate the business.
O'Brien, who currently operates her JPO Dogs canine care business from a home office, expressed interest in opening a permanent site, estimating that in full operation, her business would care for an average of 45 dogs each day.
The dogs would be kept in separate crates while indoors but be taken outside within an enclosed exercise yard measuring 45 feet by 90 feet on a rotating basis.
The fenced-in area would take up a number of existing parking spaces . The surface was to be covered by a 6-inch layer of gravel that would be washed down with disinfectant before emptying into the property's drainage system.
However, it was the disposal of dog waste, either from washing down the exercise area or in bags thrown into a Dumpster, that proved to be a major concern both for the ZBA and residents of the 44-unit Residential Gardens. In addition, residents had expressed concerns about noise and odor.
In a previous meeting, the ZBA asked O'Brien to meet with the Board of Health to find out exactly what its concerns were regarding sanitation and drainage and then to return on Aug. 7 to see if her plans warranted review by an engineer.
O'Brien did not attend the Aug. 7 meeting.
After relaying the information that O'Brien intended to withdraw her application for a special permit, Anctil asked the board for a vote to formally deny the application on the basis that O'Brien lacked the consent of the condominium association for use of tenants' common area, to wit, the parking area she intended to fence in.
Reluctant to take such a vote without a formal notice from the applicant that she really intended to withdraw, board members balked at the suggestion. But town planner Michelle Collette confirmed that, in communications with O'Brien, she learned that the applicant had found a different location for her business.
As a result, Collette said she emailed O'Brien a withdrawal form to fill out and send back to her office but as of the Aug. 7 meeting, had not received the form.
Nevertheless, reflecting the concerns of his colleagues on the board, Bruce Easom preferred not to move forward with a vote saying that the process was supposed to be "applicant driven" and that they had not officially heard from O'Brien.
At that point, Collette produced copies of her email exchange with O'Brien that left no doubt the applicant did not intend to pursue the special permit.
With that, board members voted 5-0 to deny the application on the basis that the condominium association did not consent to O'Brien's intended use of the common area.
"We had some concerns about noise and stormwater management," said abutter Ray Capes about the withdrawal. "I think the applicant's plan was too intensive a use for that property. I hope she finds a good location with neighbors she can work with. As for the property at Residential Gardens, I'd like to see a compatible business in that location."