Kennel Permit Places Orange County Rural Buffer and New Hope Creek at Risk

I am sure most, if not all, Orange County residents are unaware that a Special Use Permit (SUP) to cram a large dog boarding and training facility on a portion of an occupied residential lot bordering New Hope Creek in the Rural Buffer of Orange County has been granted by our Board of Adjustment (BOA). I am nonplussed how this came to pass.

Orange County’s 1981 Comprehensive Plan describes our Rural Buffer as “a low-density area consisting of single-family homes situated on large lots…a minimum size of two (2) acres…rural in character and which will remain rural, contain low-density residential uses.” New Hope Creek is a primary tributary of Jordan Lake. Several communities draw drinking water from Jordan and thus have a direct interest in protecting its watershed. It is one of the most important wildlife habitats in the Triangle.

The night the SUP was past, 2 of the 5 voting BOA members were sworn in by the Board’s Vice Chair—it was their first meeting. After the swearing in, the Vice Chair recused himself from voting as he had a financial interest in the case (having been employed by the proposed Kennel owner to help prepare the SUP application) and would later be sworn in to testify on behalf of the proposed Kennel owner. The new members’ inexperience and the seemingly lack of knowledge about our Rural Buffer and New Hope Creek may have played a role in its quick passing, despite the number of community members present in opposition—in fact the Chair commented it “may be the biggest audience I have seen” at a BOA meeting.

According to the minutes contained above (line 9 of page 11), the kennel "will be harmonious and compatible with the neighborhood"--- well, that not what I am hearing from my neighbors. If this business is allowed, what's next?

What do our County Commissioners and Planning Board think of the Board of Adjustments’ decision to erode away a hard fought Rural Buffer? I encourage each of you to step forward and state your position. I am asking for preservation and transparency—thankfully we have been granted a hearing in front of a judge of the Superior Court, 2nd floor Courthouse in Hillsborough Sept 22nd at 2:00 pm [note, court date moved; edited text 9/3 to reflect new date]. This is an open hearing and all concerned citizens of Orange County are encouraged to attend.



It's a shame that people have to spend their hard earned money fighting issues that should have never been approved. It appears that the BOA does  not put any forethought whatsoever in their decision making. Why have a buffer zone if they are going to grant an SUP to construct a commercial business in them. Commercial businesses need to be in an area that's zoned commercial and not in areas zoned RURAL BUFFER !  When the next local election comes around, We the people need to remember what's going on today.


                                                             Harold and Carolyn Southerland

I and my neighbors oppose the variance that was granted to Mr. Gene Lonsway to build a dog kennel in our front yard. His property is far too small to support such a business, and it backs up on New Hope Creek. There are many concerns which were not adequately addressed by the BOA, and our group was not given adequate time to prepare a defense.  What does it take to defend the New Hope Creek watershed and to keep the rural buffer free of larger-scale commercial operations?

I agree with what Carol Woodell is saying. This issue has been bum-rush on the community around this residence on New Hope Creek. The Kennel will have a parking lot for customers and that screams retail establishment to me. Not needed or wanted in a quiet rural community. 

Would you feel better if it were just called a "parking area" - kind of what you have on your property if you host a party? 

Is a church with a parking lot a "retail establishment"? 


Tell us more!  So where is the proposed kennel exactly and what are the existing county rules about kennels?

I'm a relatively new member of the Planning Board (since Jan. of this year) & I have not heard about this.

I don't think the Board of Adjustment grants a special use permit. Am I wrong? It soundslike the kennel is a possible "permitted use" and that's what the BOA affirmed.

Thanks for your questions! Below this post is the kennel’s website--and yeap, the BOA did grant a SUP (see the BOA minutes in my original post to get details about how this went down, despite community protest). The Vice Chair's involvement as the project's engineer is questionable at best.As far as the locale - if you are coming from Old 86 and headed towards I-40 on New Hope Church Road, the proposed kennel will be located at the grey house that boarders the creek on its west side (just before you cross the bridge it will be to your right). A good portion of this land is on the flood plain--I don't understand how he is going to be able to control stormwater runoff. I am very unclear about the regulations regarding kennels--it some how got plopped under "agriculture." Carol Woodell

What is the nature of this hearing? Will you be filing any motions? Who will be there and what legal avenues will be explored? This SUP sounds way out of bounds to me, please keep us informed. 

Bear with me as I am not a lawyer, but we filed a petition in May with Superior Court against Orange County and its Board of Adjustment asking the court to reverse the BOA's decision, or, at a minimum, grant us a new hearing so that we can be properly represented by counsel and allowed to present expert witnesses and other evidence to support our position. We have since been granted an appeal in front a judge (September 8 10:00 at Superior Court in Orange County). Carol Woodell

I am not a lawyer either, heck I don't even play one on TV nor watch someone else play one on TV but I do know that if you show up at the appeal and have a thousand people give testimony and even if you file a complaint that is not enough unless you file a motion to move the court.Unless you file a motion telling the judge exactly what you want him to do and site statutory reason why he should rule in your favor the court will politely listen to your concerns and complaints and may even verbally agree with you but absent the motion to stop them from moving forward the judge is powerless to over rule the Special Use, he can't tell you that but he will thank you for you time, you will leave thinking you've done all that you can and never know that you were so close to winning but didn't play the right cards.Good luck! 

I don't know how superior court proceedings are run, but I do know that it is imperative that we have as many people as possible in the courtroom supporting our cause--overturning the decision of the board of adjustments to grant a class B special use permit to allow placing the kennel in the rural buffer.Allowing a large boarding kennel is personally troubling for two reasons--1) there is no way such a facility, boarding 20 to 30 dogs, adjacent to the New Hope Creek floodplain can operate without injecting significant bacterial and chemical polution into the creek.  Studies by the EPA and numerous municipalities across the country have pointed out that runoff contacting even casual and incidential dog fecal deposits can contribute dangerous levels of E. Coli, Fecal Coliform, Salmonella, and other agents harmful to humans--and of course, other species who come in contact wih the bacteria.  Dogs not only  have to poop, they also have to be bathed, dipped, and treated for a variety of conditions that require chemical applications.  Again, there is no way this polution ca be kept from the waters of New Hope Creek.  2) Permitting this kind of commercial operation in the rural buffer that many of us, including the board of commissioners and the previously configured Orange County Planning  Department, have fought long and hard to maintain over the years, begs the question--what next.  I have been around long enough to know with certainly that once a door of so-called opportunity is opened for one, it will soon be flattened by a self-serving hoard of "opportunists". By the way, the proposed kennel boarding compound would produce at least a ton and a half of dog feces per year, if a minimal number of small-to-medium sized animals are housed there.

Not exactly morning reading, but this factsheet contains good information about the hazards of dog poop (thanks to a fellow member of Orange Politics for graciously sharing).  Here in the rural buffer, we do not have urban services (water and sewer), but septic tanks. The septic tank for this commercial kennel will be adjacent to the New Hope Creek flood plain.

Before we get our knickers in a twist, let's consider the nature of this buiness.  The word "kennel" implies noise and stinky conditions and unhappy animals; but their website gives me a much different impression.  Are the neighbors afraid of noise, dog pee, traffic, or what? Is it there already? 

I myself love dogs and am quite familiar with dog poop and pee. We have our share of traffic and noise (just try getting our of your driveway as folks are running 60 miles per hour down New Hope Church Road to get to I-40). What I am concerned about is the Rural Buffer and New Hope Creek. We need kennels and dog training facilities--but why in the Rural Buffer that was fought for in this county and why along a creek that flows in to Jordan Lake? New Hope Creek was once New Hope River before the Army Corp of Engineers dammed it to create Jordan Lake. It makes no sense to me that it would be considered an appropriate place to erect a dog training facility and kennel. And I do not doubt that the website gives a different impression--it should, it is a business. Carol Woodell  

the immediate neighbors--all of the above.  Other concerns--watershed polution and threat to the integrity of the rural buffer have been spelled out. trawick Ward

This thread brings up an important issue that OC citizens need to discuss.  We have an urban boundary and some see that as an environmentally progressive stance and something of which we should be proud.  I am one of those people.  However, I don’t often hear a discussion of what that means.  It seems to me that having this boundary says something about both sides of the line. On one side promote density; provide urban amenities and transportation centers.  On the other side discourage density and other urban pursuits but not necessarily businesses that are consistent with a rural environment.  I think often people have forgotten this coin has two sides.  I lived in what is now the rural buffer from 1984 to 2000.  I don’t know whether it was the rural buffer when I moved in but at some point I learned that it was the rural buffer.  A neighbor explained what that meant.  It meant you needed at least 2 acres to build a house.  Maybe that has changed but I remember thinking that’s a Chapel Hill idea.  The way things work around here, what we will get, at least in the southern part of the buffer, is one house on every 2 acres (and probable an expensive one).  That didn’t sound like much of a rural buffer to me.  At the time I didn’t think of the other side of the coin, what it meant for the now confined urban area.  Since then I moved into Carrboro’s northern transition zone, I’ve come to understand better what it is all about.  When I moved, just nine years ago, the Carrboro NTZ wasn’t that much different than the rural buffer that I moved from.  I was about the same distance from I-40 that I had been with similar density.  It is now much more urbanized and considering the issues presented by the boundary, which I have come to understand, I see this urbanization as environmentally positive.  Unfortunately, I am no longer sure that there is much of a political commitment to this understanding of the boundary.  I believe, this is a discussion that needs to occur.  I believe the discussion about Carrboro’s NTZ (which I guess on some level has begun) should also include a discussion of the rural buffer and the implication that having a boundary and a rural buffer has for the NTZ.      Now about the specific issue that began this thread. Without having a clue as to what the law says (I am also not a lawyer) boarding and training animals seems like a perfectly reasonable pursuit to have on the rural buffer side of the boundary.  From what I have learned from this thread, it seems like it might not be appropriate for this particular parcel of land.  There are seemly very good reasons to oppose this project but I think not because it is an inappropriate activity for the rural buffer.  In my opinion the risk is related to environmental concerns and perhaps other concerns but I don’t think this development puts the rural buffer at risk.

The concept of a "rural buffer" is defined by "environmental concerns." The establishment of a buffer is to restrict or prevent developments and activities that theaten environmental qualities deemed  essential for its preservation.  To me, the idea that an activity can be inappropriate and raise "environmental concerns" without threating the integrity of the buffer itselt, is logically inconsistant.   

Is this how OC law defines the rural buffer?  It is sort of like a nature preserve in which people can build homes on every N (Is it still 2?) acres.  What I am saying above is--- If this proposed establishment threatens environmental quality sufficiently it is inappropriate whether it is in the rural buffer or not.  It wouldn't be any more appropriate on Bolin Creek inside the urban boundary than it would be on New Hope Creek in the rural buffer.  I actually think an establishment to board and train animals is more appropriate in the rural buffer than the proposed urban area.

  • If the rural-buffer-located lot was subdivided and approved before the law took effect in the late 1980s, the minimum lot size was 2 acres.  Now the minimum is 10 acres.
  • If precedence is any indicator, the County's record on enforcing its own watershed laws does not lend me to think they will ultimately be terribly concerned with the little dog kennel.  Adjacent to the University Lake reservoir (and in the Carrboro planning district) there is a 14 acre unregulated landfill that drains its effluent directly into the lake feeder creeks.  Nobody says a word about it.


I don't know where you get the idea that the minimum lot size (MLS) is 10 acres.  The MLS in the RB is 2 acres with an open space requirement that effectively make the MLS 3 acres.

Lots of people subdivide parcels into 10+ acre lots because subdivisions where all lots are at least 10 acres are exempt (by State statute) from local Subdivision Regulations.

By the way, the JPA (Joint Planning Agreement) which established the RB, among other things, was adopted by OC and CH in Oct. '86.  It was amended in Aug. '88 to include Carrboro. 



Why?  If environmental impacts are equal.  One of us is having a logical short-circuit.

I will try one more time.  You and Ms. Woodall are combining a number of different issues to oppose this proposed facility.  They are: 1. The environmental water quality in relationship to New Hope Creek,2. General environmental degradation,3. This function is not appropriate for the rural buffer,4. The quality of life for the neighbors will be reduced,and perhaps others  In the part of my previous post that you refer to, I am talking about number 3.  I am not talking about environmental impact.  The function of boarding and training animals is appropriate for the rural buffer and in my opinion more appropriate for the rural buffer because it doesn’t promote density and as others have already pointed out, similar functions already are accommodated in the rural buffer.  This particular project may still be inappropriate for any of a number of reasons, some of them listed above.  I am sorry if this is not clear in my earlier post

Actually, my understanding of the rural buffer is that it is an area where the counties and towns agreed they would not run water and sewer lines and development would be limited to 2 acre lots. It was created to check sprawl and Caryfication between south Orange and Hboro.

There are several cattle farms and horse stables in it producing far more fecal material than the proposed kennels and a tens of thousands of tons of seweage plant sludge sprayed in it as well (including several sites in critical watershed areas of Cane Creek and ULake. If you're worried about water quality, mitigating farm runoff or helping the county in its efforts to regulate sludge spraying would be much more effective.


It's correct that the lack of water and sewer infrastructure is a defining characteristic of the RB.


Cane Cree watershed is not in the RB.  The map on p. 42 in this report shows biosolids sites:


The RB is show on the map on page 5-19 of this document:

Horse shit, sludge, and dog shit are totally different forms of excretion, with vastly different levels of environmental threat, and if you don't know the difference, I'm not going to waste any more of my time, josting with Lilliputains! 

I just learned of this additional instance of the Orange County B of A ignoring the spirit of the Rural Buffer, and am not surprised. It is exactly why my neighbors and I in the Whitfield / Sunrise Rd area have formed the Rural Buffer Defense Group (see our website: ) Our particular fight is to block a 150ft cell tower that has been granted an SUP over the protests of all the adjacent property owners. If somebody doesnt fight back the rural buffer concept will erode away by permit approvals setting precedents making it easier for the B of A to expand what is "harmonious" with the area.

Certain home occupations have always been allowed in the rural buffer. I know, because I used to do my business from our residential property. It's a feature of rural life. But there have always been limits to what is allowed, and for sure its not OK to start a business that is opposed by all your neighbors for good reason.

Steve Henry Herman

It seems like people think this kennel will be in the watershed.  That simply can't be.  What engineer would ever even design something like this in the watershed?  It would never be allowed to be built, and that's not good for business. 


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