In 2012 when Patches Ellis thought daycare for dogs sounded like a good fit for Sunset Hills, not even she could have predicted how prescient her business sense was.
Demand for her services, which later expanded to boarding and grooming, has grown to the point where she needs to accommodate more than twice as many canine clients as she started with.
But it looks as if she will have an uphill battle to get city officials to allow her to more than double the number of dogs at her 10390 Watson Road facility to 120 from 50.
The Sunset Hills Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to give the board of aldermen a negative recommendation on the amended conditional-use petition for Y Bark Alone. Ironically, the reason planning and zoning, after hearing four neighboring residents’ comments, voted against the request might be summed up in the business name.
Barking, which two residents described as coming from “a whole pack of dogs,” was the chief complaint of neighbors, who kept their powder dry through two monthly meeting cancellations before getting their chance to be heard.
Pam Spiros, who said she didn’t think a dog daycare business “should be located here in the first place,” said the frequent barking is bad enough, but also complained that Y Bark Alone employees often “yell and scream at the dogs” in a manner that is alarming. She and her husband, Stephen, reside on Julius Northway behind Y Bark Alone.
“The size of the building hasn’t been increased with this request for more dogs. I don’t see how anyone is going to be able to walk from one side of the inside of the building to the other with that many dogs in there,” Stephen Spiros said.
Meghan Mertz also complained about employees’ alleged, sometimes off-color shouting at the dogs, calling it “very disturbing.”
The facility segregates small, medium and large dogs in different chambers, and the dogs are released into an outdoor, fenced-in yard for short periods to relieve themselves on a staggered schedule. Ellis said the Missouri Department of Agriculture, which inspects dog-boarding businesses, said the facility could legally accommodate 361 dogs at a given time.
Patricia Fleming, a Y Bark Alone client, spoke in support of the business, saying it is “well run” and that it is expected that a dog boarding business would have the noise of barking dogs.
City staff gave the petition a negative recommendation, noting especially that the parking scheme does not meet city code. Ellis said the 19 parking spaces there were reduced to 10 when the others were eliminated for expansion of the fenced area. Ellis said she has obtained permission from Phase II, a machine shop across Watson Road from Y Bark Alone, for 35 parking spaces.
Commission Chairman Terry Beiter said expecting customers or employees to park and cross Watson Road is a safety concern.