Sunday, April 14, 2024

UPDATE: Blairstown Committee Updates Proposed Kennel Ordinance

The Blairstown Township Committee (BTC) re-introduced “Animal Facilities” Ordinance 2023-02, which would allow kennels in R-5 single family residential areas, at a meeting on May 24th. The ordinance will have a public hearing at next month’s BTC meeting held on June 28th where Blairstown residents can voice their opinions.

Although specific comments on an ordinance are reserved for public hearings, Blairstown resident David Schroepfer was allowed to ask a question during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Schroepfer asked for an addition to be made to the definition of “animal facilities” in Ordinance 2023-02. The definition currently states, “Animal facilities shall be defined as any of the following and specifically excluding household animals maintained for personal enjoyment or breeding, training or sales, as may normally occur during the normal course of personal ownership.”

Schroepfer asked that the following phrase be added, “as well as those housed on qualified farms that play a reasonable role on the farm.”

Blairstown Township’s code defines a commercial farm as, “A farm management unit of no less than five acres producing agricultural or horticultural products worth $2,500 or more annually and satisfying the eligibility criteria for differential property taxation pursuant to the Farmland Assessment Act of 1964.”

Agriculture is defined as, “Production for sale of plants and animals useful to man, including but not limited to: forages and sod crops; grains and feed crops; dairy animals and dairy products; livestock, including beef cattle, sheep, swine, horses, ponies, mules or goats, including the breeding, boarding, raising, rehabilitating, training or grazing of any or all of such animals, except that “livestock” shall not include dogs, bees and apiary products; fur animals, trees and forest products.”

Schroepfer stated his reason for suggesting this addition, “The thought behind that is this addition would protect farms and farmers from undue stress and confusion from this ordinance.” He gave an example, “Sheep farmers may like to breed and train and utilize their own shepherding dogs to guard and control their sheep farm. Since this could be seen by some people as a commercial use of that facility or property.”

He continued, “I think it would be prudent for the township to maintain its rural character to take that added step of putting that into the definition.”

Schroepfer is a Joint Master for the Spring Valley Hounds, a local organization that may be affected by this new animal facilities ordinance. Spring Valley Hounds was denied use in 2019 to house their hound dogs at 141 Hope Road in Blairstown.

The hunt club was instructed to apply for a D Use Variance or contact the Warren County Agricultural Development Board as preserved farmland, which 141 Hope Road qualifies as, is under the county’s jurisdiction. Neither action was pursued.

Deputy Mayor Walter Orcutt asked Schroepfer if Spring Valley Hounds had submitted an application to the Warren County Agricultural Development Board. Schroepfer answered, “I don’t know about that. I’m not the landowner.”

Later on, when the ordinance was officially introduced, township attorney Kevin Benbrook commented, “This would basically regulate kennel facilities and there’s definitional provisions and there’s certain zones they’re allowed and there’s conditions on them in certain zones as well in terms of size of the acreage.”

Orcutt stated, “Essentially this makes all kennels a conditional use in the highway commercial and R-5 zone. Every kennel application would come before the Land Use Board as a conditional use.”

“The ordinance does make very clear that if you’re housing animals for your own personal use that’s not by definition a kennel and is basically permitted anywhere,” clarified Benbrook.

Committee member Charlie Makatura made the motion to officially introduce Ordinance 2023-02 with its new conditional usage language. Committee member Waldron was the only opposing vote.

When giving her approval, committee member Karen Lance closed the conversation stating, “I’m in favor. I don’t see any problem.”

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Alex Tironi, Contributing Writer
Contributing Writer

A recent graduate of George Mason University in Virginia, Alex pursued a degree in journalism with a double minor in American Sign Language and nonprofit studies. She worked as assistant news editor to the Fourth Estate, the university newspaper where she reported on many things but mostly focused on campus crime and PD activity. While working for a nonprofit called the Borgen Project, she wrote about global health and poverty in third-world nations. Alex recently finished an internship writing and editing for a business consulting company in NY. Growing up in the area, she has always been active in her community and brings the same intention as a contributing writer for the Ridge View Echo.