Athens Planning Commissioners Strongly Disagree on Dog Day Cares in the Home But Love the Cottage Food Industry; Home Occupation Ordinance Moves Forward

This is an update to my previous post on the proposed Home Occupation Ordinance for Athens.  This is the ordinance that stipulates what types of businesses can be operated out of a home in a residential area.  Please see the previous post for a more detailed look at the ordinance and issues.

After close to an hour of debate tonight, the Athens Planning Commission sent the Home Occupation Ordinance to the Mayor and Commission for final adoption  in an 8 to 1 vote.   Much of the debate tonight centered around the Ordinance’s prohibition of dog day cares, as it did during the initial discussion last month.  Many commissioners felt strongly against allowing residential homes to operate dog day cares because such a use undermines the essential nature and purpose of the Home Occupation Ordinance.  A dog day care could potentially cause so much noise as to make it obvious to neighbors that such a business is being operated out of a home; this is exactly the type of use the ordinance wants to prohibit.

Though many commissioners were sympathetic to the idea of allowing dog day cares and pressed for its inclusion in the proposed ordinance, ultimately the importance of allowing the cottage food industry to operate out of homes prompted the commission to cease debate on the issue and send the ordinance to the Mayor and Commission for adoption.  The commissioners were presented with proposed language they could adopt if they wanted to include dog day cares in the ordinance, but even those commissioners who were sympathetic to the cause realized the proposed language was problematic and incomplete.

It called for allowing a dog day care to have a total of four dogs, including the owner’s dogs.  This doesn’t seem like a very lucrative opportunity for those wishing to operate such a business.  The language was also incomplete as to when dogs could go outside.  It stipulated dogs could go outside from 7am to 9pm, but the county’s attorney pointed out that those hours made it illegal to take the dog on bathroom breaks past 9pm; probably not something the commissioners had in mind.  His proposed change to the ordinance was well-received, but it was clear the planning department and commission needed more time on this issue.  Ultimately, considering the problems the commission had surrounding dog day cares as a use,  the language of the proposed ordinance, the fact that only four dogs would be allowed, and the desire to approve cottage food uses quickly and not shelve the entire proposed ordinance for later discussion, dog day cares was reserved for future discussion.

Here are the top three things to take away from the ordinance:

1.) Instead of reserving day cares for just children, the ordinance uses language that allows day cares of all ages.  This recognizes the growing need for care for the aged and allows such a use to operate out of a home;

2.) Cottage food Industry! The state has decided fewer food-preparation operations need to be regulated by the Department of Health and this allows local governments to allow these uses in residential areas.  Many other jurisdictions have opened businesses catering to baked goods, jams, candies, etc. to residential areas and now Athens will join.  This will be great for local farmer’s markets as it eases the burden on those wishing to operate small businesses out of their homes; and

3.) Animal grooming will be allowed in residential zones.  I pointed out in my previous article that commissioners lobbied for this to be included because we currently allow human grooming and prohibit animal grooming even though animal grooming uses far fewer chemicals and industrial equipment.  The ordinance limits the number of dogs on-site to two.

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