CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously voted to authorize legal action against the property owner of 99 Middle Road for permitting a dog kennel to operate that had neither sought nor received Planning Board approval.

But since the business, Mountain Dogs Daycare, is due to relocate to neighboring North Yarmouth – where it has gone before the Planning Board – Cumberland may ultimately take no action at all, Town Manager Bill Shane said.

Code Enforcement Officer Bill Longley in November 2019 issued a notice of violation for corrective action to the property owner – Channel Realty Trust, in care of trustee Helen Champagne of Miami Beach, Florida – and Shannon Barnes, who runs the kennel and has leased the property. Fines are $100 per day, but would only be assessed if the town took the parties to court, or reach a consent agreement out of court, Longley said.

Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane, at left, explains to the Town Council Monday the reasons behind pursuing legal action against a Middle Road kennel. Alex Lear / The Forecaster

Longley was contacted about the matter last August by neighbors Manning and Kristina Morrill. While a boarding kennel is permitted in that part of town, a non-residential use must receive Planning Board approval. Barnes did receive a kennel license last August from the state, but town authority is required, too, Longley said.

“The business appears to be growing with at least 12 dogs on some days,” the Morrills wrote Longley last November. “Traffic in and out of our shared driveway entrance has increased proportionally and the pack of dogs running in the backyard could easily overrun the rickety fence installed if they wanted. We see that Shannon is trying to do a good job containing the dogs to her property, but unfortunately, we do still get the occasional dog wandering onto our property.”

Shane told the council that “once a notice of violation is issued, and there is no compliance, the code officer really has no ability to enforce that; it requires the council’s authorization to pursue legal action. In this case, we believe the issue may be resolved prior to beginning that process.”

He said he hoped that by the next council meeting, “this will be adjudicated without the town attorney’s involvement.”

“The neighbors are looking for some relief; there have been a lot of promises but no action,” Shane said, noting that the lack of a town approval process prevented the neighbors from weighing in on the kennel’s operation.

No members of the public spoke during the agenda item, which ran about three minutes.

Champagne could not be reached for comment on the matter, but Longley said she called him after the notice was issued and wanted to make sure the matter was corrected. Barnes said last week that the daycare operation had shut down and that only four dogs remained, which she said she was allowed to have without being considered a kennel.

Longley said Barnes had a boarding kennel where she charged fees for care, not a private kennel where she owned all the dogs, which still needed town approval.

“We are not running out of there, we have bought a new place; we are moving,” Barnes said. She had thought it had been the town that granted her approval, and not the state, and she had not approached the Cumberland Planning Board because she was moving, she said.

Barnes received unanimous approval by the North Yarmouth Planning Board last month to operate Mountain Dogs Daycare at 195 Gray Road, according to minutes the panel was to approve Jan. 14. The approval came with four conditions: insulation and sound barriers in the barn and garage have to be completed before opening, a vegetation buffer in the front of the property has to be up by July 1, a privacy fence around the area accessed by the dogs must be in place by July 1 and noise from the dogs must meet town ordinance standards.

Barnes – who has run her business for seven years, the past year in Cumberland – said she is working to get renewed state approval for the kennel in North Yarmouth, on property she has purchased.

She was to return to the North Yarmouth Planning Board on Tuesday so that panel could approve the finding of facts regarding its decision. Also, there was to be an abutters notification confirmation, addressing a mix-up in notifying all the correct abutters at the most recent meeting, and ensuring all who want to speak get heard, Chairwoman Audrey Lones said.

Any other comments heard could lead to additional conditions, but the approval itself should stand, she said.

Barnes’ issues in Cumberland are a separate matter, Lones said: “Each town has its own ordinance requirements, so we follow what we have in North Yarmouth. We had no knowledge of the (Cumberland issues), so we made our decision based on what’s appropriate for the town.”

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