Vet Hospital Gets Approval

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, September 30, 2010

CUMBERLAND – This week the Planning Commission approved with conditions a conditional use permit application to allow for a veterinary hospital and commercial kennel to operate within Cumberland County.

The applicants, Gary and Phyllis Groneweg wish to locate a veterinary hospital to the Hillcrest area of the County. The area is to be rezoned as B-1, business.

They are representing his daughter, Dr. Elizabeth Hazelgrove, who currently operates the Andersonville Animal Clinic in nearby Buckingham County.

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Dr. Hazelgrove is a resident of Cumberland and desires to construct and operate a veterinary hospital and associated small-scale commercial kennel within the County.

The Commission considered a rezoning request and code amendment related to the veterinary hospital pro-posed for the Hillcrest area of the County earlier before the public hearing was held on the conditional use permit portion of the project.

“This is the conditional use permit portion of it,” said Andrew Sorrell, planning and zoning administrator, about the three permits running concurrent.

The rezoning application amends the zoning map from agricultural and rural residential to business for a commercial use, which would be allowed due to the conditional use permit, he said.

The previous two were heard by the Commission on September 20 and were recommended to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

The project is proposed on a 2.6 acre parcel of property located adjacent to Hillcrest Road and Route 45 near the intersection with Route 60.

Currently, according to Sorrell, veterinary hospitals and commercial kennels are “uses not adequately ad-dressed by the zoning ordinance.”

Therefore the Planning Commission adopted a text amendment to the zoning ordinance to address the uses.

“Procedurally, if approved by the Board of Supervisors, the applicant shall be required to submit a final site plan that meets the requirements…,” said Sorrell. “Such site plan shall demonstrate how the applicant shall achieve the buffering standards as well as where the facility will be located, in addition to parking.”

There is also the possibility of a grant opportunity for the veterinary hospital project.

According to Michael Cooper, the County's assistant county administrator of community development, Cumberland's IDA is working with the applicant to apply for a Rural Business Enterprise Grant through the USDA Rural Development program, which could offset the cost of having public water provided to the property.

“If the grant is not realized, the applicant indicates that the existing well on site will be sufficient for its needs,” added Sorrell.

The applicant has also submitted a waiver to the Virginia Department of Transportation to permit the loca-tion of the entrance be closer than regulated.

“VDOT staff has indicated that the waiver is expected to be approved provided there are no other suitable en-trance locations,” said Sorrell. “VDOT has also stated that the subject property will require a commercial en-trance.”

The use would provide a service business to county citizens that will “more efficiently” serve the needs of the County, noted Sorrell about Cumberland not currently having a veterinary hospital and citizens having to travel outside of the county for these services.

“Currently, county residents must travel outside of Cumberland County for veterinary care for their pets,” he said.

The conditional use permit was submitted due to the potential impacts of the veterinary hospital and com-mercial kennel on neighboring properties that are mostly residential and agriculture, he added.

Also, according to Sorrell, the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine has specific regulations that govern the construction and operation of a veterinary hospital.

“Prior to opening the facility, the Veterinary In Charge is required to be approved by the Vet. Med. Board,” noted Sorrell to the Commissioners. “In addition, a representative of the Vet. Med. Board will be required to inspect the facility before it opens and then on an annual basis.”

Related to the commercial kennel operations, animals must remain indoors during 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily.

The facility is set to be one-story and approximately 3,200 square feet. It will be designed to fit within the County's historical design standards outlined for the Route 60 corridor.

Prior to the approval of the zoning permit, the applicant will need to have a final site plan approved by the zoning department.

Off-street parking will also be provided and the facility will contain no more than 12 enclosed fenced runs.

“The veterinary hospital shall be air-conditioned, contain a ventilation system and be constructed of sound absorbing materials so as not to create undue noise or emission of odor at adjacent property lines,” noted Sor-rell about the proposed conditions. “Indoor runs shall, at a minimum, be serviced by a ventilation system to circulate air.”

The conditional use permit only “conditionally” allows for this permitted use since it would be zoned busi-ness (B-1), according to County Attorney Howard Estes. But, any of the by-right uses can still be utilized on the site.

“The condition only applies then to the specific use of a veterinary hospital and I just wanted to provide that clarification,” he told the Commission.

Public Input

According to Sorrell, he received on email related to the application from Dr. Kingsley, DVM, who sought to ensure the Commission was aware that the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine has “very specific” regula-tions regarding the construction and operation of veterinary hospitals.

County staff, he continued, has also received calls in support of the proposal as well as other citizens who have stopped into the office and spoke to staff on the proposal.

Once the public hearing was opened, Groneweg spoke on behalf of his proposal and requested that the Commission consider giving applicants longer than one year to begin construction once the conditional use permit is granted.

“I wanted to thank the Commission for the work and what you've done so far…,” he began. “I would like to encourage the Commission to seriously think of making some changes or some wording changes to the re-quirement that the building must commence within one year or the conditional use permit will automatically become void.

“I want to encourage you to think of some alternative wording that would allow the applicant to, based on drawing or plans that have been underway, show some movement to be able to extend that of a period of, at least, another year…,” he said.

According to Groneweg, the project could be delayed which would require it to go over the one-year mark.

“There's certainly a possibility,” he noted. “The design and construction of a veterinary clinic is a compli-cated issue. There are a lot of state requirements that we are going to have to make and we want to make sure it is situated on the site properly and we do have the issue of the public water grant that is not resolved at this point. We'd like to get started as soon as we can but there is a possibility that the construction won't be started. We'd be doing some work on it in the background but whether actual construction starts within that period of time, we're not actually sure of.”

The County's code (Sec. 74-702) requires that construction or operation of the facility must commence within one year of issuance of the conditional use permit or else such permit becomes void, according to Sor-rell.

“Staff suggests the Planning Commission consider reviewing this terminology for revision when they next re-view the zoning ordinance,” he said. “…I think that it may be something that we look at and say…as long as someone can demonstrate that they are working towards that initiated use I think they should have the flexibil-ity…”

Bill Osl, representative from the Board of Supervisors on the Commission, asked, “What's the definition of construction? Is it defined in the code?”

According to Sorrell, the definition cannot be found in the County's code.

“It's a hole,” noted Commissioner Carol Miller.

“I read construction…or operation… must commence within one year,” said Osl. “All that means is that someone can stick a shovel in the ground and the person has commenced. We have a ground breaking.”

According to County Attorney Estes, the definition is “broader” than just being under construction or opera-tional.

Building permits and other permits have to be obtained and they expire within a certain amount of time.

“I think we can be as flexible as we can with this but I do think with the long-term we do need this to be clarified,” said Sorrell. “We don't want to limit businesses…”

Estes then requested that the process be revisited and possibly mirror the County's building permit process.

“I think that is a point for us to discuss when we address the zoning ordinance and that is a policy decision that you all need to start thinking about,” said Estes.

The Decision

Vice Chairman Bill Burger made a motion requesting the proposed conditional use permit with seven condi-tions permitting a commercial kennel and veterinary hospital to operate in business zoning be approved.

“Mr. Chairman, because this request meets the intent of the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinance and in accordance with the attached resolution, I move to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that conditional use permit application number 10-02 be approved and adopted contingent upon the conditions stated in the said resolution… as amended,” said Burger.

The conditional use permit recommendation was approved unanimously and sent on to the Supervisors for consideration during its Tuesday, October 12 meeting.

The Board will also hold the public hearings on the code amendment and the rezoning application during the same meeting.


Before the public hearing portion of the meeting, Sorrell started by providing additional clarification to the term, kennel, private and what “outdoor confinement” means in the terms kennel, commercial, and veterinary hospital as stated in the code amendment that was earlier approved by the Commission.

“Staff felt it is necessary to add additional wording to the terms kennel and veterinary hospital,” said Sorrell about clarifying action that was taken earlier by the Planning Commission. “We felt it was necessary to define those terms…”

“Kennel, commercial means any structure or any land or any combination of either used, designed or ar-ranged for the commercial grooming, boarding, breeding, training, selling, or care of dogs, cats or other household pets that charges to or collects from animal owners a fee for overnight maintenance, care or boarding of animals or which is operated for any purpose other than that of a private kennel. For the purpose of this term, outdoor con-finement shall mean any commercial kennel that utilizes any form of animal confinement and/or animal runs which are not completely enclosed in a structure that is poorly ventilated and air conditioned. Facilities with a combination of indoor and outdoor confinement shall be deemed to have outdoor confinement.”

“Kennel, private means any structure or any land or any combination of either used, designed, or arranged for grooming, boarding, breeding, training, or care of dogs, cats or other household pets belonging to the owner of the property, kept principally for the purposes of show, hunting, or as household pets on the premises of the facility.”

“Veterinary hospital means a place where animals are given medical care and the boarding of animals is limited to short-term care incidental to the hospital use. For the purpose of this term, outdoor confinement shall mean any veterinary hospital that utilizes any form of animal or animal confinement and/or animals runs which are not com-pletely enclosed in a structure that is properly ventilated and air conditioned. Facilities with a combination of in-door and outdoor confinement shall be deemed to have outdoor confinement. For animals boarded no incidental to hospital care see the term Kennel, Veterinary clinic, Veterinary office, and animals hospital mean the same as Vet-erinary hospital.”

Vice Chairman Burger made a motion that the Commission bring the issue before the group and reconsider the code amendment as presented with the clarifications and it was seconded and approved.

At this time, the point was raised as to how these new definitions would impact hunting clubs and animals used for hunting purposes.

“If I have a hunting club and the animals are kept on my property and we go and hunt on someone else's property is it still a private kennel?” asked Burger. “…I just want to make sure we don't run into problems down the line with the private kennels.”

According to County Attorney Estes, a hunting club that utilizes dogs for its own private use is different than if a hunting club's primary intent was to sell dogs.

It's a case of selling versus hunting with the dogs, noted Estes.

“If a hunting club kept the animals for their own private or club use then it would be different than if a hunting club lent the dogs out to other organizations for a fee-that would be a commercial kennel then,” he continued.

At that point, Burger requested at what time does a private kennel cross the line in the ordinance to being a commercial kennel by asking if a hunting club occasional trades or sells a dog but it wasn't the “intent” of the club.

“If a hunting club has animals then that could be deemed a private kennel because they aren't selling them,” said Sorrell. “I think, also, that anything that is already existing…that doesn't fall within the definition as it currently reads that they would be grandfathered in.”

The bottom-line is that a hunting club may not fall within the clarified definition, he noted.

“If the hunting club has the dogs and they trade or sell back and forth does that then mean they are a com-mercial kennel?” asked Randy Bryant.

“It could,” noted Sorrell.

“That would be the distinction right there. If you sell them then you become a commercial kennel,” noted Chairman Parker Wheeler.

“Where do you draw the line?” asked Ms. Miller.

“It's no different then you selling a car to someone else,” said Osl. “It doesn't make you a commercial car dealer.”

“Where do we make the distinction?” asked Wheeler as the discussion continued.

According to Sorrell, the primary “intent” is what will create the distinction between a private kennel and a commercial kennel.

“Can we put a statement in the ordinance to clarify that?” asked Burger about clarifying that hunting clubs with dogs would not be considered a commercial kennel.

“We can make a clarification statement in the recommendation that we provide to the Board of Supervisors,” said Sorrell.

After the discussion, the Commission, again, adopted the code amendment and recommended that when the changes go before the Supervisors that they also include the clarification statement related to the intent of hunting clubs.

“When some of the citizens read this, they may be complaining and it may be a problem,” said Burger about deciphering between commercial and private kennels.

“I can very easily make a policy statement that clarifies that,” said Sorrell. “The code, as it is written now, would permit them to have the sale of the occasional dog and I'd be happy to put that in the staff report to the Board of Supervisors…I think that it's what we want to do and I don't think we want to get into defining some-thing that doesn't leave for flexibility in the future.”