GROTON -- Worries over disposal of waste matter were uppermost in the minds of Planning Board members when they met to review the feasibility of locating a dog-care facility within the Residential Gardens condominium complex off Main Street.
At issue was an application by Pepperell resident Jillian O'Brien for a modification to the comprehensive permit awarded by the Zoning Board of Appeals to the 44-unit Residential Gardens complex that would allow her to establish a dog-care facility there.
The former site of the Anytime Fitness health club, which has since moved to a new location across the street, the building in question rests squarely amid a densely populated neighborhood with single-family homes on nearby Anthony Drive also abutting the property.
The stand-alone building had been vacant for some months until O'Brien, who currently operates her JPO Dogs canine care business from a home office, expressed interest in opening a permanent facility there.
Appearing before the ZBA at its meeting of June 5, O'Brien estimated that in full operation, her new facility would care for an average 45 dogs each day. The dogs would be kept in separate crates while indoors but be taken outside for exercise on a rotating schedule.
Outside, she planned to enclose an area 45 feet by 90 feet as an exercise yard, part of which would encompass a number of parking spaces.
Elaborating on her plans to the Planning Board at its meeting of June 27, O'Brien said the exercise yard would be enclosed by 6-foot-high solid fencing that would hide the dogs from the view of residents and muffle any noise they might make.
The area inside the fence would be covered with loose gravel and sprayed down every night with a germ killing chemical harmless to the environment. Droppings would be picked up separately and disposed of in a nearby Dumpster.
O'Brien said hours of operation would include shifts of dogs being outdoors between 8 a.m. and 6:45 p.m., Monday through Sunday. All of them would be indoors for the night by 7 p.m.
Because issues raised by the dog-care facility went beyond the expertise of the ZBA, members referred to the Planning Board for comment on O'Brien's plans.
And though concerns were expressed on a range of issues, including lighting, snow storage, emergency access and hours of operation, board members focused quickly on the issue of waste disposal.
Under O'Brien's plan, after spraying the graveled exercise yard down, wastewater would then flow to a nearby detention drain, part of the site's overall drainage system. But that system had been carefully designed with particular kinds of businesses in mind. A dog-care facility was never contemplated.
"I think the concern is solid," said board member Scott Wilson of the questions raised.
Board members worried that the chemical used in spraying the exercise yard would not be adequate in sanitizing waste before it entered the drainage system via a nearby detention basin.
Moreover, chairman John Giger expressed discomfort with the notion that solid waste would be disposed of by simply throwing it into a Dumpster with regular trash and emptied every two weeks.
It was a concern echoed by abutter Ray Capes whose Anthony Drive property line is located only 16 feet from the Dumpster and his home not much farther away than that.
Giger emphasized to O'Brien the importance of the waste-disposal issue to board members dealing as it did with serious public-health issues.
"Our only concern is can we make this site work," said Wilson of the board's concerns.
"I only want an operation that works and that is safe and healthy," assured O'Brien, adding that she made all of her decisions about the business with her neighbors' position in mind.
The concerns raised and identified by the board were expected to be communicated to the ZBA in time for its next public hearing on the matter scheduled for July 9.