Construction started in the fall after the rescue's owners, Julia Altman and John "Jack" Merritt, obtained a building permit. However, work was halted when the township's zoning officer ruled that they needed to apply for a special exception under the township's zoning ordinance.
The new building will provide separate areas for medical care and whelping as well as a home-like room where families can get to know their new rescue dogs.
A zoning hearing was scheduled earlier this year but had to be canceled due to the pandemic.
At the rescheduled hearing, held June 29, Ms. Altman and Mr. Merritt described the activities at the rescue and said the new building does not represent any increase in activity but will allow them to improve their services. Ms. Altman said they have a kennel license from the state that permits them to have a maximum of 45 dogs.
Neighbor John Geewax objected to the building, arguing that (1) it was too close to his property line and would have to be moved, and (2) the rescue exceeded the number of animals permitted on a farm. The zoning board pointed out that the setback rules applied only to open buildings like run-in sheds, not enclosed ones, and that the animal restrictions in the township ordinance applied to livestock like horses and cows.
"Dogs are not livestock," explained the zoning board's attorney, Fronefield Crawford.
After hearing the testimony of the owners and their architect, and Mr. Geewax's objections, the four members of the zoning board who were present (Tom Best, Wayne Grafton, Josh Taylor and chairman Clayton Bright) walked to a far corner of the parking lot to weigh the matter. After a brief discussion, they returned and all four voted to approve the special exception. They placed a condition on the ruling that there would be no expansion of the operations in terms of the number of dogs, large animals, employees, or volunteers, to which the owners readily agreed.
"We're delighted," said Mr. Merritt after hearing the ruling.
The rescue is located at 246 Clonmell-Upland Road (Route 842).