Burrillville council calls zoning decision on kennel license ‘a mistake,’ denies applicant

Brooke Brien speaks before the Burrillville Town Council.

BURRILLVILLE – A decision by the Burrillville Zoning Board to go against legal advice – and grant a kennel license to an applicant who lives in a zone where the activity is prohibited – was effectively overturned by members of the Burrillville Town Council last month.

For applicant Brooke Brien, the decision means she must now work with town officials in hopes to devise an alternative plan, or lose a furry family member.

Brien, who recently moved to a home on Chapel Street with her family, including her four American Bulldogs, says she was unaware that by town ordinance only three dogs are allowed in the residential zone.

“It would literally kill us if we had to get rid of one of our dogs,” Brien told councilors at a recent meeting. “We’re not looking to run a kennel, per se, but we need a kennel license if we are to keep our fourth dog. I know a kennel license is like, a scary word, but we don’t want a kennel.”

At a previous meeting with the Zoning Board in May, Brien explained that she only wished to keep her four pets, and that she applied for the license not because of complaints – but because someone from Burrillville Animal Control found out she exceeded the town’s limit on dogs via a Facebook post. She said she does not wish to breed the animals, and would agree to a stipulation prohibiting the activity.

Town Solicitor William Dimitri weighed in at the time, however, to state that it would be inappropriate to grant a the family a kennel license, as the use is expressly prohibited by town ordinance.

Still, zoners unanimously approved Brien’s application for a variance at a hearing on Tuesday, May 14.

Dimitri spoke again on the matter as Brien appeared before the Town Council last month in hopes to obtain the license.

“My advice at the time was that our zoning ordinance prohibits a kennel in an R12 zone, and that they should not grant it,” Dimitri said of zoners. “The board disregarded my legal advice.”

Town Manager Michael Wood also weighed in, stating that the administration was not in favor of granting the requested license.

“It’s not that we’re against kennels, dogs, kids or anything along those lines,” Wood said. “It’s that the zoning doesn’t permit it. We believe the Zoning Board made a mistake by granting a use variance. We don’t think the precedence should be set where we’re going to be allowing kennels in residential areas.”

Councilor Jeremy Bailey, who work in real estate, noted the zoning stipulation limiting dogs is an issue he’s encountered in the past.

“I actually had some clients move out of town because they weren’t zoned for it,” Bailey said.

“The applicant’s caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Councilor Stephen Rawson. “I wish we could find a way to make some kind of an agreement to allow her to have those dogs until they are no longer with us, and then revert back to the three dog maximum.”

Council President Donald Fox, however, noted that the board was legally required to focus on what was before them: a license request.

“The bigger issue is the Zoning Board went against our zoning,” said Fox. “This isn’t like a special use – this is a prohibited use. The Zoning Board made a mistake.”

“When you get legal advice you have to follow it,” agreed Councilor Raymond Trinque. “Our committee, the Zoning Board, made a mistake.”

“If they had done their job right we wouldn’t be in the situation here,” said Councilor Dennis Anderson. “I think all of us feel a frustration and a sympathy for someone who loves their dogs and has no other path.”

Dimitri said he was also sympathetic with the situation.

“I wouldn’t get rid of my dog either,” Dimitri said. “It’s the license that’s the issue. I can’t give a stamp of approval to a kennel license.”

Wood said the situation had gotten, “out of hand,” noting that Brien should never have had to go before the Zoning Board.

“Let us work with the owner and see what we can do,” he said. “I think there’s accommodations that we can make.”

Councilors unanimously denied the request for a kennel license, and the variance granted by the Zoning Board will now become null and void after 30 days.

Wood later told NRI NOW that as of this week, no further action had been taken on the matter, and that he does not anticipate having the fourth dog removed in the foreseeable future.

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  1. To many people, animals are all they have. Animals are our “children” – Let’s see one of them make that decision to “get rid of” a family member (a child at that) & see how that turns out. SMH. I pray this poor family gets to keep their beloved animals & can move forward without the harassment of the town. Best of luck.

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