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North Salem Residents Speak Out On Proposed Dog Shelter

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – Nearly two dozen Hilltop area residents came to last week's North Salem Planning Board meeting to hear representatives of Hilltop Stables, LLC, propose a not-for-profit 50-dog shelter on a 33-acre tract at 39 Hilltop Drive.

The property abuts the equestrian facility owned by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. According to a recent New York Times article, Hilltop Stables is linked to Bloomberg through a foundation.

The shelter intends to provide no-cost interim care for dogs whose owners are experiencing financial, emotional or personal-health related hardships.

“We want to be good neighbors. We don’t want to disturb the residents and we’ll hardly disturb the environment,” said attorney Michael Sirignano, representing Hilltop Stables.

Since the property is zoned R-4 residential, it qualifies for a kennel under town code, said Sirignano. Theoretically, more than 50 dogs could be kept on 33 acres, but in any case a special-use permit is required.

The existing 5-stall barn and garage would be converted to indoor kennels, Sirignano continued. Existing paddocks would become exercise areas. At no time would dogs be left unattended, indoors or out. 

Some existing fencing would be replaced with chain-link fence, camouflaged with evergreens. Dog waste would be collected and taken offsite. Year-round landscaping and maintenance would be provided by an outside contractor, said landscape architect Scott Blakely.

Managers Kristen and Robert Vallejo would occupy the existing house. The staff would include about seven employees and a number of volunteers. 

The Vallejos want to continue their current business as professional dog trainer/groomer while they manage the kennel. Grooming would be by appointment only and dogs in training would stay from two to six weeks. 

According to the operational plan, training classes for small groups of people would be offered twice a week. An average of three clients a day might visit the property for dog-grooming. 

The board was unsure about commercial use of the property and was especially concerned about the noise impact. “Who’s going to control these dogs if 50 of them start barking during the night?” asked board member Charlotte Harris.

Chairperson Cynthia Curtis asked for the names of comparable kennels that the board could visit, and perhaps interview some neighbors.

Curtis also requested floor plans and a meeting with the prospective managers before the board’s next working session.

Hilltop Drive resident Letty Nardone said, “At night it’s so quiet and serene here, you can hear one barking dog from far away. Imagine 50. I have an autistic daughter. She’s very sensitive to sound. I hate to think how this noise invasion will raise her anxiety. She already lives with so many fears.”

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