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Decision postponed on south Forsyth dog shelter’s zoning changes

 
POSTED: March 8, 2017 5:00 a.m.
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Furkids, which has 12 other locations, is the largest no-kill shelter in the Southeast and has adopted out more than 3,000 animals in recent years.

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SOUTH FORSYTH -- One of the region’s largest dog rescue organizations could be getting some new rules that would make it more useable, but it will take at least a couple of weeks.

Forsyth County commissioners voted unanimously at their most recent meeting to postpone a decision to March 16 on changing zoning conditions on the building used by Furkids Inc., which, among other issues, currently prohibits animals from going outside from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.

District 2 Commissioner Rick Swope said officials with Furkids and the Gates at McGinnis Ferry, an abutting business park, are close to an agreement and that one should be reached by the next meeting.

“Since we are that close I am going to motion that we postpone the decision for two weeks,” he said. “I believe in two weeks a couple of things can happen. No. 1, I believe we will converge to an agreement that both sides can agree upon.”

Ethan Underwood, at attorney representing the no-kill shelter, said the property is zoned restricted industrial district with no conditions but that an overlay on the property has a conditional use permit, which was originally approved for another dog rescue in 2005. Furkids took over the property in 2013.

“This is a not notch facility. We’re lucky to have them in Forsyth County, but they’re not being able to use their facility,” he said.

Underwood said Furkids, which has 12 other locations, is the largest no-kill shelter in the Southeast and has adopted out more than 3,000 animals in recent years.

“This particular location is very important because almost a quarter of those adoptions are done at this location. It serves a large area,” he said. “We’d like to be able to use the facilities and the areas they have to save more dogs.”

Another issue the new conditions would address is how nursing mothers and their litters are counted. Under current rules, each animal is counted individually, and under the proposal, moms and litters would count as one animal, which is more in line with state standards, until they are 9 weeks old.

Under the proposed conditions: space would be limited to 65 dogs; trainers could take two dogs each outside for up to eight dogs; staff would receive training; windows would remain closed; and no animals would be allowed on the business property.

Proposed building conditions were to plant evergreens on the property boundary, place a vinyl sheet near the boundary and address septic issues.

Representing the board of The Gates was Christopher Light, who said Furkids have been great neighbors, though the business park encountered issues with the previous business.

“I do believe I can speak for my board in saying that they do believe Furkids when they say they will be good neighbors and work with them,” Light said. “It is an office park. They do do business there, and it is hard to do that with some of the sounds and smells they’ve had in the past.”

Light, Cumming City Council member, requested the postponement and said one of the only issues between the two sides is a condition to not allow another animal rescue to take over the property if Furkids leaves. He said the area is heavily industrial and not a right fit for the business.

“This site is small,” Light said. “They’re where development trends in this area are not really compatible for this use.”

Another issue going on between the parties is the number of dogs allowed.

Many speakers during the required public hearing and public comment opportunities were in favor of Furkids, including many speakers and attendees wearing the company’s shirts, and Samantha Shelton, executive director and founder of Furkids.

“In 2003, we took over this dog shelter and we immediately invested $430,000 in this building because we wanted to bring it up to our standard,” Shelton said. “We turned it into a beautiful, state of the art facility where we could open it up to the community and allow the community to come and serve.”

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