Northampton City Council OKs funds for kennel, but neighbors oppose proposed site

  • Northampton City Hall, 2019.

Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2021 7:46:48 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When the city’s animal control officer or a police officer has an animal, like a lost dog, there is no city-owned space to temporarily house it. That may soon change, as the city has found a possible location for an animal control facility.

“We’ve had a series of temporary arrangements,” Mayor David Narkewicz said.

These included contracting with the town of Amherst to be able to use their facility, but that meant driving dogs to Amherst and having to go back and forth to take care of them, he said. “We really need to have our own facility.”

Currently, dogs are taken to Wagging Tales Pet Resort in Hadley, Narkewicz told the council at its April 1 meeting.

The city has been looking for a site for an animal control facility and identified a piece of land it owns off Chapel Street to study as a possible kennel location. On Thursday, the City Council voted to appropriate $400,000 to the project. Those funds, along with $395,000 the city devoted to the project several years ago, would cover the estimated design and construction costs, Narkewicz said. But some in the neighborhood have voiced concerns.

The building, which would not be open to the public, would have at most eight dogs and a room for cats, and animals would only be let outside by staff, Narkewicz said. He said the city looked at a number of possible sites before deciding to explore the one off Chapel Street (Route 66).

Ward 5 Councilor Alex Jarrett has heard concerns from residents. “It’s really about the noise and the barking of dogs — that would be the biggest concern.” He also noted that zoning in the area wouldn’t allow a facility like an animal control building if it wasn’t a municipal one.

“I think the idea that you’re going to be able to hear barking coming from it at all hours of the night, that’s certainly not what we would want from this type of facility,” Narkewicz said. “We feel confident we can construct the building in a way that it will be tight both from an energy perspective but also from a sound perspective.”

Ward 2 Councilor Karen Foster has heard “quite a few concerns” from neighbors.

“This is my neighborhood,” she said. “This is where I walk my dogs and where I spend my time.”

She said she respects concerns from neighbors and also understands the city needs a facility.

“I recognize that we are not committing that location to be the host of the animal control facility by appropriating the funds,” she said. “The idea of drawing up plans and studying, and seeing if it’s something that can be done in a way that mitigates concerns of the abutters, is something that feels like a logical step to me.”

Narkewicz said he plans to hold a neighborhood meeting, likely in late summer, to go over plans before they are submitted to the Planning Board.

Some neighbors shared concerns during public comment. Martha Ebner, a Rust Avenue resident, supports funding for the kennel, but “strongly opposes” the proposed location.

“This location is right in the middle of a large neighborhood and quite literally beneath my bedroom window,” she said. “Even the most well-run facility of this kind has unavoidable smells and noises.” She worried it would lower the value of her home.

Benjamin Spencer, also a Rust Avenue resident, said he understands the need for a kennel.

“It’s kind of unbelievable, the current state of affairs,” he said. But, he is “completely opposed” to the location.

“The kennel is going to be right out my kitchen window,” Spencer said, pointing out a window behind him. “Honestly, it’s an insult to the neighborhood for this to have been considered.”

Previously, the city explored putting an animal control kennel on Glendale Road. In a community meeting a few years ago, residents “thought the facility was needed, they liked the facility,” Narkewicz recalled at the April 1 City Council Meeting. “They thought it was important, but they did not want it on Glendale Road.”

The Policing Review Commission recommended in its recent report that all animal-related calls “should be handled by unarmed animal control officers who are not connected with the NPD whenever possible.”

The animal control officer is not armed, Narkewicz said, but overnight and in her off hours, the police respond to animal calls. An animal control department with multiple employees working different shifts, he said, “that would be a significant allocation of resources,” he said. “You definitely would need to do a cost benefit analysis.”

He added, “The facility is for the animals. The facility is needed no matter what model of service delivery, he said. “This is the bricks and mortar capital project that’s different from future discussion around how the service is delivered.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy