AURORA -- Plans to locate an animal care clinic and kennel at Route 43 and Sycamore Drive in front of the Hawthorn of Aurora subdivision ran into widespread opposition at the Feb. 15 planning commission meeting.

Because of that, Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin reports that the application for a conditional zoning certificate for the site formally was withdrawn on Feb. 17.

A public hearing on the conditional zoning certificate for the proposed Aurora Animal Care Center on 5.4 acres to the north Dr. Aydin Cabi's dental office building drew a packed house to Town Hall's City Council chambers and 21 speakers to the podium, all of whom opposed the proposed location.

The panel accepted the CZC request for study after the public hearing.

Mark Moore of FMD Architects and Dr. Ellen Imhof, owner of the Aurora Veterinary Clinic in Town Center and Aurora Kennel on Route 82 west, laid out plans for a 8,000-square-foot center, which Imhof said would consolidate the two current sites.

The new facility would have provided indoor exercise areas, a community dog wash and a walking path on the back portion of the property which could be used by local residents wishing to walk their dogs.

Imhof said building on the property would have allowed the business to expand services and increase its efficiency. "We have always been good neighbors and we are dedicated to this community," she noted.

Moore and Imhof said the proposed boarding facility and clinic would have used the latest technology in comfort and sound proofing.

The proposal was for 50 indoor dog runs, with none outside. Egress and ingress would have been off Sycamore Drive, and there would have been substantial sound-proofing materials, plus screening and fencing around the building, with a large water retention area.

Imhof said she has been looking for a site to consolidate her two businesses for years, and thought the site would have been a perfect, centrally-located property.

The nearby residents who spoke cited noise from barking dogs, the impact on property values and concerns about fecal waste management and traffic as reasons for their opposition.

A couple of local realtors expressed their concerns about how the facility would affect the ability for current homeowners to sell their homes, and how it would deter potential out-of-towners from buying new homes in Hawthorn.

Hawthorn developer Joe Constantino, who also manages the Hawthorn apartments, said he believes the property "is just not the right spot" for such a facility.

In a letter submitted to the planning panel, Hawthorn Homeowners Association secretary-treasurer Cathy Conroy said the group "strongly opposes the proposal" and its trustees "urge the planning-zoning commission to reject it."

"Changing this site from a peaceful, quiet environment to a noisy, loud barking environment can only be deemed to have a negative impact on residents close by," the letter said.

Conroy said studies have been performed to estimate the impact of barking dogs on property values, and those have found that a single barking dog at a neighbor's house could decrease a property's value by as much as 5 to 10 percent.

She also cited concerns about effluent runoff into Aurora Lake, a recreational attraction for the subdivision's residents. She said residents living in more than 1,000 homes use the lake.

The letter said the trustees also have concerns about increased traffic on Route 43 and in and out of Hawthorn, and don't understand the proposed placement on Sycamore of the facility's access point.

Walnut Ridge Trail resident Michael Callahan also submitted a lengthy letter to the panel citing many of the same concerns previously mentioned, and noting his belief that the CZC application does not meet requirements of city ordinances necessary for granting of a CZC.

"The applicant has numerous other options to choose from in the area that would offer a more practical location for her business," Callahan said.

In a letter to Conroy sent Feb. 17 after the CZC application was withdrawn, Womer Benjamin said the association's concerns were taken seriously by Imhof and by the mayor.

Although the mayor believed the project would have been a great investment in Aurora, she didn't believe the chosen location was appropriate. "I met with Dr. Imhof at great length and we are working to find a more appropriate site in Aurora," the mayor wrote.


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