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Fears of noise, odor may doom bid for kennel

Residents of Stonehedge on the Hill have no difficulty recalling the stench of a fish-packing plant that operated for two years north of their mobile home park.

And they still cringe at the memory of a nightclub they say blared music until all hours of the night from the same location.

They are just as irritated about the possibility of a dog kennel opening in the building at 39930 U.S. 19, and they appear to have the sympathy of the Tarpon Springs City Commission.

On Tuesday, commissioners reviewed Maritime Pet Kennel's request to open a facility in the Sunrise Cove Shopping Center on the west side of U.S. 19. They will vote on the matter at Wednesday's regular commission meeting, but all five commissioners echoed residents' concerns about potential noise and odor problems.

"I would have to have an absolute ironclad guarantee that standing outside the facility, you would not hear a peep, and I don't know if they can give us that guarantee," Commissioner Cindy Domino said.

"I've got a big misgiving about the project because of the noise," said Commissioner Karen Brayboy. "I wouldn't want to live near it myself. I think it's our responsibility to proceed very cautiously on this."

Maritime Pet Kennel owner William Conwayplans to open an obedience school at the site, which is allowed under its current zoning. But he also wants to be able to board animals overnight.

On Wednesday, Conway walked through the 5,000-square-foot building, pointing to new double-paned windows and walls that contractors are making 3 feet thick to contain any noise the dogs create.

Each of his training classes would have no more than 10 dogs, he said. He doesn't plan to board more than 50 dogs at once, and that would be only during the busiest holiday seasons, he said.

He has promised to wrap any animal waste in plastic and dispose of it in a trash bin that will stay locked, except when being loaded and unloaded, to prevent scavengers from foraging in it.

Conway said he feels bad about how neighbors were treated by previous businesses. But he said he would like the chance to prove he is a responsible business owner.

"Everything they've asked of me, I've delivered," Conway said of the sound-proofing. "This is not the same structure as in the past. We're doing everything we can."

Conway has hired a St. Petersburg acoustical engineer to help him soundproof the building. David Fagen, president of Fagen Acoustical Consultants, helped write the county's noise ordinance in 1974.

Fagen said it is possible to insulate the building so that dogs could be heard only when a door is open.

But Stonehedge residents say they're afraid the dogs may bark all night when no one is there to watch them.

"He (Conway) should give us his phone number so we can call him up at night," said Bob Sheriff, who lives about 30 yards from the proposed kennel's back door. "Maybe that would be a good way to keep it quiet."

Residents of Stonehedge are at least 55 years old. Keeping them awake at night with loud noise borders on abuse of the elderly, said Sheriff, who also worries about rats being attracted to the kennel's garbage.

If Maritime Pet Kennel moves in and its insulation fails, Stonehedge residents will have to put up with another loud, smelly business nearby, Earl Lewis said.

"With all that soundproofing, if it works, fine," Lewis said. "But if it doesn't work, we're going to be stuck with it."

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