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McAllen weighs conditional use permit for 'doggy daycare'

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The McAllen City Commission may decide Monday whether or not a pet-sitting business that failed to follow city regulations should receive a conditional use permit.

Melissa Burton, the owner of Melissa's Pet Services, owns and operates a pet-sitting business at 6820 N. Taylor Road.

Burton started her "doggy daycare" business in a neighborhood on North 28th Lane. Burton said she moved to North Taylor Road in an attempt to comply with city regulations.

"The issue is that the permit that we're applying for — the only permit that we fit the criteria for, which is dog kennel — the criteria or the requirement is five acres of land," Burton said.

Burton's property, though, is just one acre.

"It's not what I want to do. And, not to mention, the incredible expense of five acres of land to upkeep and maintain. One acre's a lot already," Burton said. "And so I'd have to charge my clients so much money it wouldn't be feasible — to afford five acres of land."

McAllen also requires dog kennels to be located at least 300 feet from the nearest home.

"The operations take place inside the residence and outdoors in the different dog playgrounds," according to information prepared by the city Planning Department.

As a result, the Planning Department advised the McAllen Planning and Zoning Commission to reject Burton’s request for a conditional use permit.

"There is an approximately 2,700 sq. ft. single family residence in the 1-acre property. The applicant divided the backyard and front yard into 4 different playgrounds for the dogs," according to information prepared by the Planning Department. "The applicant is proposing to continue operating a dog daycare from the existing residence and the outdoor playgrounds in the property."

The Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed Burton’s request for a conditional use permit on June 2. Members voted 6-0 to recommend disapproval of Burton's conditional use permit.

The City Commission is scheduled to discuss the conditional use permit on Monday afternoon.

At least one neighbor opposes Burton’s request for a conditional use permit.

In a handwritten letter, the neighbor said he'd lived next door to Burton's property for more than 30 years.

He described her business as "a real nuisance. Barking of dogs day and night. Dogs fighting with each other." Along with the noise, he said the business creates traffic.

Burton, meanwhile, started a campaign to save her business. She invited members of the City Commission to tour the property and asked her customers to contact the city.

"Melissa and her small business, who we all know are facing a tough time due to the current Covid pandemic, have been a blessing to my family. This goes beyond a boarding business for dogs," one customer wrote to City Commissioner J.J. Zamora. "Melissa has become a vital part of our everyday life. In a time when small businesses need the most support from their local government, I hope that our leaders would do their best to work with and support a small business like Melissa's."

Burton said she's willing to do whatever it takes to keep her business open.

"We've done everything they've asked. And I will do anything they ask. I want to work with the city,” Burton said. “I'm happy to do whatever they think is best for the city as well. Because this is supposed to be something for the community."

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