MANCHESTER, N.H. – The fate of a home-based dog daycare remains in limbo after the Manchester Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) tabled a requested variance from several sections of the city’s zoning ordinances on Thursday.
Lauren Lessard of 255 Melrose St. came before the board on Thursday after learning her home-based dog care business should be classified as a commercial kennel under the city’s zoning ordinances, a use only allowed conditionally in certain non-residential areas.
Lessard told the board that she has a limited number of customers through services provided via the pet-sitting app Rover.com, including neighbors seeking to avoid larger dog daycare facilities. She also told the board that she had informed her abutting neighbors of the business and all of them support her business.
Some of those neighbors such as Keri Scott of 254 Melrose St. wrote letters of support to the board. In Scott’s letter, she praised Lessard’s ability to care for her dog when she is away at work.
“I cannot recall what year Lauren moved into the house across the street from me, but she has been nothing but a wonderful, friendly neighbor,” said Scott in her letter, which was read aloud during the meeting.
Despite several letters of support, members of the board expressed concern over granting the variance, which could potentially allow others to operate a dogcare-related business at the residential property if Lessard moved away in the future.
ZBA Vice Chairman Jose Lovell said that it seemed like Lessard was good at taking care of dogs, but expressed concerns over the variance carrying over to future occupants and concerns over other portions of the variance relating to setbacks from Lessard’s property lines.
“No matter how well you run this place, the next person could come in and it could be a totally different show. That’s maybe the most important item in my mind,” said Lovell. “In a residential neighborhood with essentially zero feet of the limited activity buffer, that’s just a non-starter in my mind.”
Lessard didn’t understand why her business classified under the definition of a commercial kennel, feeling that caring for four dogs along with her own was more akin to someone babysitting four children.
However, members of the board indicated that taking care of dogs for money fit under the ordinances, with ZBA Member Anne Ketterer advising Lessard to pursue the business in a non-residential area.
“I just want to note that the distinction the applicant is trying to make, However, when I heard the letters being read, you really are operating a commercial kennel. That’s what this is, when you’re making money watching someone’s dogs,” said Ketterer. “It sounds like you’re really good at it and if you want to do this as a business, there are zones in Manchester that allow that. But, putting it down in a residential neighborhood where you have four dogs, and your own that’s five, is giving permission to have many more and I’m not okay with that because that’s not in the best interests of the neighborhood.”
While variances usually run with the land rather than the occupant, the issue was eventually tabled to allow for the city solicitor’s office to investigate whether legally the ZBA could grant the required variance to just Lessard and no future occupants of her property.
The issue will remain on the table until the board meets in September, with Lessard told she could run her business in the meantime.