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Mar 5, 2019 3:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Doggy Day Care Can Stay At East Hampton Home

Lori Marsden in front of her home on Saddle Lane with some of the dogs she babysits. ELIZABETH VESPE
Mar 6, 2019 7:31 AM

Lori Marsden can continue to run a doggy day care business from her home on Saddle Lane, the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously decided last week.

“People appreciate people like Ms. Marsden who take good care of their dogs and get to know their dogs,” said John Whelan, the ZBA’s chairman, rejecting the argument that the business, Lori’s Full Service Pet Care, changes the residential character of the block.

The ZBA’s decision on Tuesday, February 26, overturns a determination on July 18, 2018, by Ann Glennon, the chief town building inspector, that Ms. Marsden’s business didn’t qualify as a home occupation that would be permitted in a single-family residence located in a residential zone, and therefore was prohibited.

Ms. Marsden’s attorney, Carl Irace, had argued that the ruling could put more than 50 East Hampton pet sitters out of business, not to mention threatening other people, like tutors, music teachers and tailors, who operate home businesses.

“This issue has created a lot of interest,” said Tim Brenneman, a ZBA member, last week, referring to public testimony at ZBA hearing on January 29.

In the last year or so, neighbors have complained about dogs barking and the traffic created by pet owners picking up and dropping off their animals. They have also expressed concern about the potential danger of dogs getting loose and biting someone, which is what prompted the building inspector to visit the home.

Mr. Brenneman explained that a neighbor’s complaint led to the discovery that Ms. Marsden had five dogs in her care—two of which were her own—and was running a pet care business from her home.

The board received letters from multiple neighbors and testimony in support of Ms. Marsden, he said, as well as letters of opposition, and even an audio file of dogs barking. Mr. Brenneman said it was unclear how much noise was associated with the business rather than the owner’s own dogs, and that it was unclear where the recording was taken.

At the February 26 ZBA meeting, Mr. Brenneman said the dog care business follows East Hampton Town code by showing no outward indication of a commercial business other than a small sign notifying people to keep the gate closed. He said the pet sitting business acted as secondary to the residential use, not changing the character of a home or neighborhood. In addition, he said, there are no visible crates or cages or outward sign of activity.

“The gainful activity is clearly secondary to the residential use and … does not change the character of the building as a residence.”

Mr. Whelan said that Ms. Marsden mostly walks the dogs at the beach or takes them to the local dog park, rejecting the claim that the business changes the neighborhood’s residential character.

Theresa Berger, another board member, echoed Mr. Brenneman’s sentiments. “I too am in favor of opposing the building inspector’s decision,” she said.

Roy Dalene, the board’s vice chairman, agreed as well. “I counted 13 letters of support verses four letters of opposition,” he said.

Mr. Dalene added that complaints with Ms. Marsden’s business were new, even though she has been in business for more than 12 years, and added that there was no evidence to support claims that Ms. Marsden was running a dog kennel.

“A doggy day care does meet, should meet, and my common sense tells me it better meet the definition of a home-based business,” Mr. Brenneman said. “This is not a commercial animal establishment, nor is it a commercial kennel. There’s no breeding or sale of animals. There is no grooming or boarding facility per se,” he said.

“It’s my belief, and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the entire board’s belief, that regardless of our decision tonight, the issue of pet care dog care is worthy of a more detailed definition that better considers the needs of the community,” Mr. Brenneman said.

“A couple of friends of mine watched the Tuesday night hearing and I got several texts saying, ‘Good news! They voted in your favor,’” Ms. Marsden said on Tuesday of this week. She said the next step is for the ZBA’s attorney to write up the board’s decision and send it to Mr. Irace.

“I’m hopeful everything will work out,” she said.

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Glad to hear this, the whole thing was ridiculous.
By Dafsgirl (62), Southampton on Mar 5, 19 4:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
one for us locals
By xtiego (688), bridgehampton on Mar 5, 19 5:46 PM
2 members liked this comment
Glad to hear. Just another miserable neighbor out there with nothing better to do.
By watchoutnow968 (40), Southampton on Mar 6, 19 8:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
Great job by Carl Irace. So happy for Lori and all the pups.
By marybmary (53), east hampton on Mar 6, 19 9:53 AM
Well done! But still shameful that inspectors were used as a weapon against this law-abiding honest working person. Or was this case used just to inflate numbers? To make it appear there is actual enforcement of our codes occurring? Now that this is cleared up perhaps enforcement officials can focus some attention on the overcrowded houses and multi-family dwellings that are unsafe and negatively affecting our community???
By dogtired (27), north sea on Mar 6, 19 11:02 AM
So glad to hear this outcome! Don;t have a dog at the moment, but when we did, we depended on in-home care when we went out of town. Good job!

By Lorraine Dusky (7), SAG HARBOR on Mar 7, 19 6:03 PM
Good news!
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Mar 8, 19 11:46 AM
Glad that the complaining neighbors with twin children did not put someone out of business. Did not make sense that they could not watch their own two children themselves if they were in the front of their house to keep them out of any potential danger or alternatively have their children play in their own back yard instead of making the neighbor - who appears to be responsible - restrict her life for their seeming attitude of entitlement to the entire street.
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Mar 8, 19 11:54 AM
Glad that the complaining neighbors with twin children did not put someone out of business. Did not make sense that they could not watch their own two children themselves if they were in the front of their house to keep them out of any potential danger or alternatively have their children play in their own back yard instead of making the neighbor - who appears to be responsible - restrict her life for their seeming attitude of entitlement to the entire street.
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Mar 8, 19 12:01 PM
Southampton, Riverhead Building Supply, Supplies