Shelter Proposal Sparks Calverton Cat Fight

Neighbors said they were not given the chance to be heard.

Claws are out over a proposed cat clinic in Calverton, where felines would be neutered and spayed.

Members of the community turned out at Tuesday's town board meeting to protest the proposed facility, which would be set up by the North Fork Animal Welfare League on land owned by Rex Farr on Youngs Avenue, near the current Riverhead Animal Shelter.

According to Farr, who spoke to Patch on Tuesday evening, the facility would not be boarding animals and would serve a critical need.

Baiting Hollow resident Tom Crowley spoke at Tuesday's town board meeting and said the application, which came before the town's zoning board of appeals, was for a "full-service animal shelter with veterinary support."

Crowley said when neighbors got letters regarding the plan, there was no address given, only a tax map number, and residents were not aware of the location of the proposed facility.

"I'm a homeowner, not a lawyer," he said.

Residents, he said, are livid. "There's outrage in the area," Crowley said, adding that he's received over 30 emails from incensed neighbors.

One of the chief complaints voiced is that residents were not given the chance to be heard on the proposed plan. "We really want to be heard," Crowley said.

Councilman Jim Wooten said the matter was not before the town board -- and that he had forwarded all letters sent by residents to the zoning board of appeals, which is handling the matter.

"When we moved here, it was an agricultural environment," Crowley said. "To put a full-service kennel there -- dangerous is not the word for it."

A treacheous "s" turn on Youngs Avenue makes the site dangerous for any commercial endeavor, he said. "It's shocking to me -- shocking -- that you would consider putting a business on that turn," Crowley said. "This is a safety issue."

Wooten agreed the area was residential but reiterated that the town board had no voice in the matter as it was a ZBA issue.

"What are you going to do about it?" Crowley said.

Wooten said since the ZBA hearing on the proposal was held on the Thursday after Hurricane Sandy, it might be possible to get the ZBA to re-open the public hearing at the next meeting on Dec. 20.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said he would personally ask the chairman of the ZBA to put the question of re-opening of the hearing up for a vote. In addition, Walter said the town code might need to be amended regarding the notification process for neighbors when an application is introduced.

Councilman John Dunleavy agreed that it would be difficult for neighbors to ascertain where a proposed property was sited based on a tax map number. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio noted in Southampton Town, a copy of the application and survey submitted to the ZBA is circulated to nearby residents, and in Southold Town a project description and location is sent out to concerned parties.

Neighbor Adrienne Governali said while she lives approximately 500 feet from the parcel in question, her property does not abut Farr's parcel, which would be leased to the NFAWL under the proposed plan. And yet, she said, she was not notified of the project. "None of us on this side of the street were notified," she said.

Dunleavy said the head of the Calverton Civic Associaton should be "fighting for its residents.

Governali said the head of the civic is Farr. "It's his property they're leasing, so fighting him is difficult," she said.

Connie Farr, Farr's wife, countered that the project was already approved by the ZBA and said letters were sent to all the neighbors by attorney Peter Danowski, who is handling the project for the NFAWL.

Rex Farr said the goal for the past 10 years has been to privatize the Riverhead Animal Shelter. The NFAWL, he said, was given a $300,000 gift to be utilized toard a spay and neutering clinic. The hope, he said, is that the NFAWL will eventually take over operation of the Riverhead Animal Shelter.

In the meantime, he said, "We decided since they have no place to put this, we will lease them land on the corner and put up a 1200 square foot neutering and spay clinic." No boarding would take place at the facility, he said. "We're solving a problem."

Both cats and dogs would be neutered and spayed at the clinic, he said.

The facility, Farr said, would be sited on his organic farm; 46 of the 60 acres are preserved for agriculture. 

"I've been an organic farmer for 25 years," he said. "So for my new neighbors to complain, which they've done from day one, that suddenly, dogs are going to keep them up all night -- I don't give a damn. Animals are already on the property, from cats to cows."

Farr suggested naysayers inform themselves of the accurate details regarding the project. "They don't have the facts right," he said. "I would never allow boarding -- to begin with, dogs and sheep don't get along."

The proposal, Farr said, proves to be a win-win, with no funds expended. Hopefully, the NFAWL would step in to manage the town shelter, and in the meantime, the proposed building would "solve an overpopulation problem."

Chrissy Lessard December 05, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Good for you Connie Farr. I support what you are doing. You cannot please all of the people all of the time but this is something that is needed as our cat population is out of control. What did the neighbors say when Kent Animal Shelter was established....I wonder. And now, after all those years, you hardly even notice that its there. And they are right in the middle of a residential area. So...go for it!!!
Jennifer Paruolo December 05, 2012 at 12:17 PM
I speak only for myself as a homeowner on the street abutting the proposed location for this facility. My biggest issue with this situation so far is the massive misconduct of the Town Zoning Board. Proper communication and an open forum for information and discussion would have gone a long way to assuage the tumultuous situation that this has become. My expectation of my local government is one that is open and equitable. Now, real or perceived, I believe the situation has been manipulated by Rex Farr because he has more money and influence. That is the antithesis of a democratic government. I am seriously disappointed in my current town officials for their subvertive conduct and will undoubtedly remember this next election day.
Anne Marie December 05, 2012 at 09:32 PM
"...it would be difficult for neighbors to ascertain where a proposed property was sited based on a tax map number...." Ok.. I totally get the confusion concerning the location b/c of a tax map.. but there's also a thing called reading comprehension that was taught in school. There's also this thing called "questions"... You ask them when there is a discrepancy or any type of confusion brought about by a statement. There's also choices to ask these questions without resorting to litigious action. Also, on the Riverhead News Review FB page, one opposer used the tragic accident that happened to the ACO as a platform to further her cause citing the following: " Anyone with comments about this should think about me buying the house next to yours and putting a shelter full of pitbulls there..." to this: "Does nobody remember that a pitbulls recently attacked and dragged a worker at the shelter." Just goes to show that some people have no qualms nor dignity when it boils down to their own selfish wants. I personally think that we'd all be much better off if we were to be more tolerant of others and learn how to work with each other instead of against one another based upon selfish desires.


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