Cat clinic plan sparks concerns in Calverton

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Farmer Rex Farr looks over the land he plans to lease to the North Fork Animal Welfare League in Calverton. He and his wife already run an animal rescue operation.

Weeks after a public hearing on a plan to build a cat spay and neuter clinic in Calverton went off with little fanfare, some neighbors to the proposed shelter are now speaking out.

The neighbors are raising concerns that the North Fork Animal Welfare League’s planned clinic would lower property values and increase traffic in the area.

The proposed clinic would be located on four acres on the south side of Youngs Avenue, just down the road from the town’s animal shelter, which would be leased out by resident Rex Farr who also runs an animal rescue operation on his land.

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals hearing, held on Nov. 8, was on the issue of whether or not an animal shelter was a permitted use in the agricultural protection zone in which the property is located.

The town code doesn’t specifically list that use.

Peter Danowski, the attorney on the application, and 10 supporters attended the meeting. Mr. Danowski was the only one to speak, and said the character of Youngs Avenue wouldn’t be altered by the spay and neuter clinic because there’s already a dog shelter there and a landfill.

At the time, board members expressed support for the plan. But in the past few weeks, neighbors around the property have sent letters complaining of the plan to Town Hall, urging the ZBA not to grant the application.

Matt Governali, who lives a few hundred feet away from the proposed clinic, said he and his neighbors don’t oppose the idea of an animal shelter.

What they oppose is the location.

“A cat shelter’s not a bad thing, it just doesn’t belong on that end of the street,” Mr. Governali said. “It becomes Kent [Animal Shelter]. Kent’s a great place, but there’s a lot of traffic that goes in and out of there.”

Mr. Governali said that while there is the town dog shelter, the town’s landfill and Crowne Sanitation operations just down the road, the garbage trucks are not allowed to travel down the residential side of Youngs Avenue.

He said he was not notified of the public hearing, and neither were many of his neighbors.

“A good amount of the residents had no idea what was going on,” he said.

Town code states that for ZBA hearings, all landowners whose properties are adjacent to, or across the street from an applicant’s land must be notified by certified letter about the hearing.

Mr. Governali lives across the street from the property adjacent to the proposed clinic, so he was not notified by the town.

His wife, Adrienne, said she was shocked to read News-Review reports about the public hearing, having not heard it was going to happen.

“None of us knew,” she said. “There goes our property value in our neighborhood. It’s going to affect my property value. It’s ridiculous.”

Eric Reichenbach, who lives adjacent to the proposed clinic, said he got the letter, but said the letter was not clear about what the hearing concerned. He did not attend the meeting.

“In hindsight, we all should have been going [to the hearing],” he said.

Now the group of neighbors is sending letters to try to reopen the written comment section of the hearing, which has since closed, so they can have their concerns on the record.

“We’ve sent letters to everybody, to zoning board to the town clerk detailing our concerns and it seems like that’s fallen by the wayside,” Mr. Reichenbach said.

The neighbors even talked about filing a motion of injunction to block the approval, he said.

“I don’t know how much good it’ll do, but we have to fight it,” he said. “I don’t know what else to do, but all I know is that if this facility opens the property values all around are going to drop.”

Rex Farr, the owner of the property and The Farrm farm, said he had heard several complaints from his neighbors in the past about animals he keeps on his property and dismissed their concerns.

“These people were bitching about my roosters, they’re bitching about this … I don’t care,” he said.

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Read more in the Dec. 6 News-Review newspaper.