Doggie daycare in residents’ dog house
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, April 2006) At the March 9th meeting of the Lincoln-Heights Scranton Starkweather Block Club, residents said they want to preserve the residential nature of their neighborhood. Part of the discussion centered on a variance granted to a local doggie daycare, the Mutt Hutt at 2603 Scranton, for expansion in an area zoned multi-family. The variance was granted at a recent meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The area served by the Lincoln-Heights Scranton Starkweather Block Club is located in the Ward 14 portion of Tremont. The area served by the block club stretches from Kenilworth on the north to Branch, Barber and I-90 on the south, and from W. 25th Street on the west to the Innerbelt on the east. Residents say they have had the longest continuous relationship with TWDC of any block club in the greater Tremont neighborhood. The block club noted that the neighborhood contains 76 residential units, five mixed-use business and residential units and three totally commercial units – the Starkweather Tavern, the Mutt Hutt and Classic Connection and Restorations.
At the February 6th Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, the Mutt Hutt, applied for a zoning variance to allow an outdoor dog area in a multi-family district behind the commercial building they are renting on Scranton Avenue and on another yard on Allman Court. The block club opposed these zoning variances on the grounds that the fenced outdoor area for the up to 25 dogs abuts residential homes.
John Dembie is a resident of Allman Court, the area behind the Mutt Hut. Dembie testified at the hearing that the fence is only 60 feet from his bedroom window. As a third shift worker, he said he returns home at 7 a.m., showers and tries to sleep. He fears the barking dogs will keep him awake. The Mutt Hutt opens at 7:30 am and provides outdoor access to the dogs from 8:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m.
Linda Dembie circulated petitions in the immediate neighborhood, gathering 70 signatures of residents opposed to the Mutt Hutt. She told the Plain Press “they can hear the dogs now with the storm door up and wonders how much worse it will be in the summer”. Dembie attempted to show the zoning board a video and audiotape that would clarify how many houses were in the back near the fenced area. According to the meeting transcript, the zoning board refused to watch and listen to the tape – saying they didn’t want to listen to the dogs barking.
Linda Dembie said that Mutt Hut owner Becca Riker moved into the building on Scranton without contacting the neighbors about her intentions. She said Riker first came to the block club with a site on the west side of Scranton. The block club asked her to talk to the neighbors around the site and see if they supported the business in that location. Instead the Mutt Hutt opened on the east side of Scranton. Residents of Starkweather and Allman Court behind the Mutt Hutt say they were never consulted. Dembie said Riker did not come back to the block club with her new location until they challenged her plans based on the violation of the zoning code.
The transcript of the zoning appeals hearing reveals testimony that three Scranton Avenue businesses and a Scranton Avenue resident testified on behalf of the Mutt Hutt. Mutt Hutt owner Riker testified as to the supervision of the dogs. Ward 14 Councilman Joe Santiago and Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman both spoke in support of the Mutt Hutt.
Neighborhood residents that live next to the dog care facility and in the immediate vicinity testified at the zoning appeals hearing against awarding the variance for use of the back area. With the exception of one resident on Scranton, Tremont residents supporting the Mutt Hutt did not live in the immediate neighborhood surrounding the business.
A city of Cleveland representative testified at the hearing that the Mutt Hutt did not represent a hardship case. The city official said the owner could have found numerous properties in the city of Cleveland that weren’t shoehorned into a densely populated residential neighborhood.
The Board of Zoning Appeals approved the variances to allow the dogs to run in the back area. Residents now are faced with appealing the decision on the variance in Common Pleas Court. Residents feel the Board of Zoning Appeals failed to address their concerns, and failed to enforce city ordinances designed to protect their interests.
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