Dogs gone, but trainer asked to stay in Ipswich


ZBA members from left: Haley Mosher, Ben Fierro, Bob Gambale, Rob Clocker and Julia O’Leary (ICAM screen grab)

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IPSWICH — After hearing that all members of the zoning board of appeals were against the idea, the woman seeking to build a dog kennel at 236 High Street has withdrawn her application.

Maggie Hackett went to the board looking to board and train up to 15 dogs on the 3.4-acre lot. She also has three dogs of her own. She had a purchase-and-sales agreement for the property, which is a few doors down from Mile Lane.

The parcel is in the rural residential A district and the water supply protection district. Parts of the land are also in two separate wetlands buffer zones, according to the town’s GIS map.

The ZBA feedback came at its meeting last Thursday. A procession of neighbors spoke against the proposal, citing concerns about traffic, noise, and dog-waste pollution. Next-door neighbor Erica Duda also presented a 184-name petition against the kennel.

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Hackett, who currently operates The Canine Classroom out of a relative’s property on Cherry Street in Wenham, wanted to buy the long, narrow lot. She said she intended to live there, too.

While neighbors were firmly against the idea of ​​living so close to a dog facility, ZBA members tried to soften the blow in their feedback to Hackett.

Vice-chair Benjamin Fierro called her “competent and knowledgeable,” and said there is a need for a dog-training facility in town.

However, when he looked at the special permit requirement that the training business be compatible with the neighborhood, Fierro said he could not support the application. He said he hoped Hackett found a more suitable location in Ipswich to run her business.

Chairman Robert Gambale agreed. He said he enquired about Hackett’s operation and said people spoke highly of her abilities. “It’s not a reflection on you or your business,” but number 236 was too close to the neighbors, he added.

Neighbors

“This is not a wise choice, to put a kennel in our neighborhood,” said Constance Markos of Mile Lane, whose property backs on to 236 High Street.

Abutter Joe Suslak asked what recourse neighbors would have if the kennels turned out to be a nuisance. “All we can do is complain. I don’t want to be that kind of neighbor,” he said.

Neighbor Emily Lemieux made a similar point when she said barking would continue after the business closed at 5 pm and neighbors would have to call police about the noise.

Fierro agreed when he made his comments later, saying it was not the job of neighbors to police ZBA conditions. “They should not be put in that situation,” he said.

Responding to claims that the kennel would set a precedent, Fierro disagreed. Applications for a special permit grant the ZBA discretion and allow it to look at each case separately, he added.

Next-door neighbor Mary Perry said she was concerned about the noise and her own dog, who would have to be kept indoors due to the distraction caused by the kennel.

Duda said she was worried about the smell and potential pollution. She noted that a service called Poop 911 would come every week or so. She said if 15 dogs were on site seven days a week, they would leave at least 105 “waste products.”

Neighbor Paul Lightbody was more blunt. “You get 15, 18 dogs. What are you going to do with all that shit?” he asked.

Resident Megan Greenleaf noted that Hackett also proposed to breed dogs. Quoting the ASPCA, she said typical behavior of breeding dogs included “baying, howling, and over-barking.”

After the board and neighborhood feedback, Hackett decided to withdraw her request rather than have the ZBA take a vote to deny it.

It marks her second attempt to open a kennel in a residential neighborhood. She applied to the Boxford ZBA in February 2021 for a special permit to do the same thing at 22 Ipswich Road. That request also failed.

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