The Town of Halifax Zoning Board of Appeals members and Jennifer R. Harmon, also known as Jennifer R. Choate, have been named in a lawsuit brought by neighbor Scott M. Clawson citing improper notification regarding special permit changes and increases, at the dog breeding kennel operated by Harmon, Tarawood Kennels, 7 Plymouth St., Halifax.
ZBA members Robert Gaynor, Kozhaya Nessralla, Peter Parcellin, Robert Durgin, and Gerald Joy were named in the suit, not personally, but as members of the Board of Appeals. Also named is Jennifer R. Harmon, who is also known as Jennifer Choate, Tarawood Kennel owner.
According to Clawson’s suit, on the many occasions since mid-2010 up to this year, the ZBA did not notify parties in interest about hearings that were scheduled to change or substantially modify the terms of the kennel license and neighbors were denied their chance to appeal or to be heard on the permit renewal.
The first license application approved by the ZBA on or about July 20, 2010, was for a special permit for a kennel for the breeding or boarding of dogs at 7 Plymouth St., Halifax with conditions, according to the filing. The special permit was granted to allow “a kennel for the breeding or boarding of dogs.” The permit cited nine conditions in addition to all the rules and regulations and codes of the Town of Halifax. These conditions included no boarding of outside animals. The dogs must all be licensed to Jennifer R. Harmon. No breeding of outside animals allowed on the premises. The special permit is not transferrable. Puppies not sold within six months must be removed from the property. Only two (2) litters allowed per year per breed. Only 15 adult dogs on the property. Applicant must provide and maintain soundproofing, and dogs must stay within the property line. The applicant must license all adult dogs.
The special permit in 2010 was granted based on the presentation and plans presented at the hearing. Any changes from what was presented and approved must be brought back before the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The special permit also required that once the decision has been without appeal for 20 days, it be recorded with the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, or with the Assistant Registrar of the Land Court for Plymouth County, and a certified copy indicating such registry recording has been done be filed with the board.
Feb. 15, 2012, Harmon (Choate) met with the Zoning Board of Appeals at Harmon’s request to revisit conditions, asking that the number of dogs be increased to 23 adult dogs and the number of litters allowed be increased to three per year per breed, in addition to the original conditions set forth in 2010. That permit will not take effect until it is registered with the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds and a receipt for that filing is at the Registry is filed with the Zoning Board of Appeals.
In April, 2013, Harmon (Choate) was back before the ZBA requesting that her special permit be amended to allow up to a maximum of 50 dogs, and 26 litters of puppies, 20 litters for the German Shepherds and six litters for the Pomeranian breed. This amendment was granted May 1, 2013.
In May 2014, the permit was amended to allow a maximum of 26 litters of puppies among three breeds: German shepherd, Pomeranian, and Jack Russell terrier, keeping to a maximum of 50 adult dogs on the premises.
In the 2015 permit renewal application, the total number of adult dogs was still 50, and litters of puppies still at 26, although now spread between only two breeds, German shepherd and the Pomeranian.
In short, in five years, the number of dogs allowed at Harmon’s (Choate’s) Tarawood kennel has grown from 15 adult dogs and two litters of puppies per year to 50 adult dogs and 26 litters of puppies. In September of this year, there was before the ZBA a revision which would allow 100 adult dogs and unlimited litters of puppies. That application has since been withdrawn, it was announced at last week’s Halifax Board of Selectmen’s meeting.
Clawson alleges in his filing that concerned parties were not notified by the Zoning Board of Appeals or by Tarawood Kennels about the special permit applications or their modifications allowing as many as 50 adult dogs and 26 litters of puppies.
Clawson contends that the ZBA granted Harmon’s special permits and revisions without notice to parties-in-interest and seeks to have the special permit annulled and if not annulled, to ask the court to order further relief deemed just and proper.
Clawson has been before selectmen and the ZBA on many occasions with concerns of dogs barking at all hours of the day and night, seeking relief from the noise. Selectman Kim Roy has investigated the charges on behalf of the board and found noise to be substantial.
At the Sept. 27 selectmen’s hearing, Choate was ordered to reduce the number of dogs in her kennel to 25 in order to help keep the noise to a minimum. Roy also found that soundproofing which has been one of the conditions of her permit since the first permit given in 2010 has not been done.
Clawson, who was a member of the audience Sept. 27, appeared dissatisfied at the ruling, saying that he (and others in the area) have been waiting for something to be done for years and expected something more substantial to solve the problem.