PEPPERELL - A nonprofit that trains rescued dogs to work with disabled veterans needed a special permit. The plan was to build out a space in an industrial building for storage, offices, training area and living space for up to three dogs.
They were turned down.
Selectmen voted 2 to 1 to allow Operation Delta Dog to locate in Pepperell Place. But, the special permit required three yes votes. Because Delta Dog planned to board up to three dogs at a time while they were in training, they needed a special permit from the Board of Selectmen.
A hearing on July 17 drew residential abutters. Some spoke against allowing the training facility.
"We did not anticipate having this sort of opposition," said Executive Director Lauren Burbridge.
The neighbors were concerned with noise. If the boarded dogs started barking, all the dogs that could hear them might start barking.
Usually the animals would be inside, going out in a caged area to play and eliminate, Burbridge said. A staff member would be present.
When the dogs were inside, as they usually would be, they would not be heard outside.
"We don't anticipate any issues," said Alison Manugian, representing Delta Dog's landlord, the Lexvest Group.
The cinder block construction is already soundproof and Delta Dog planned to add more soundproofing, Manugian said. Staff would be on duty between 6:30 a.m. and 11 p.m., Burbridge said.
The unattended nighttime hours also raised concerns.
"I have a problem with dogs staying overnight by themselves," Selectman Lisa Ferolito said.
Licensed animal shelters and veterinarian offices usually leave animals alone overnight, Burbridge said. "It's a standard in the industry."
Delta Dog planned to add a video monitoring system and has three employees within a six-minute drive who could arrive quickly if needed. They planned to meet with town safety officials to create an evacuation plan.
"I thought they did everything they needed," said Selectman Roland Nutter in a call after the meeting.
He expects the services dogs would be less likely to bark than pet dogs. His son Gabe, a veteran, has a service dog. Sammy is very calm.
People bought their homes knowing it abutted an industrial zoned area and building, he said.
During the meeting, Chairwoman Melissa Tzanoudakis asked for clarification on how the dogs would be supervised and kenneled.
"I think there's a way to make everybody happy," she said. Although she was not thrilled with video monitors, the special permit could have conditions attached to ensure things were done correctly.
Tzanoudakis and Nutter voted in favor of granting the special permit. Ferolito voted no.
In a follow-up email Ferolito said she supports veterans and Operation Delta Dog, but does not support leaving dogs crated overnight in a commercial building.
"Further, I cannot ignore the abutters' opposition to having Operation Delta Dog in their neighborhood. There were neighbors there who were clearly unhappy," she wrote. "I wish Operation Delta Dog much success."
Delta Dog has 20 days from receiving the formal determination to file an appeal in the court system, said Burbridge.
"We'll have to retain an attorney," she said. "As a small nonprofit that takes money away from the work we're doing."
They have their landlord on their side.
"We are disappointed that the Selectman declined the request but respect the process and are exploring options to address any concerns," Eric Shapiro, president of the Lexvest Group, wrote in an email.
Delta Dog also has the support of others in town.
"People are chomping at the bit to help us," Burbridge said.
Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.