Update, Oct. 11: A pitbull rescue center requested to withdraw plans for a new 100-dog facility on 38.4 acres off of Will Wheeler Road in North Hall.
Director of Planning and Development Sarah McQuade told the Hall County Board of Commissioners Monday, Oct. 11, that the applicant, Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue Inc, requested to withdraw the application. The board will vote on the withdrawal at its meeting Thursday, Oct. 14.
The Hall County Planning Commission recommended denial of the application at its Sept. 20 meeting, after more than a dozen nearby residents attended the meeting to oppose the development. Neighbors said they worried pitbulls were more likely to be aggressive than other dogs and that the noise would be cumbersome. Several speakers said the rescue would hurt their property values.
Supporters of the organization also attended the meeting, driving from Paulding County, where the nonprofit’s current facility is located. They said the rescue would be an asset to the community.
Stan Hunt called the vote one of the hardest decisions he has made as a commissioner.
Jason Flatt, the founder of the nonprofit, could not be reached for comment regarding the withdrawal.
The organization already has approval to rezone 46 acres of land in Paulding County to make way for a new facility, Flatt said at the meeting, but the property in Hall County would have been cheaper to develop, because it already had some buildings and dog kennel facilities that they could adapt.
Plans for a pitbull rescue facility in North Hall are up in the air after the Hall County Planning Commission rejected the request at its meeting Monday, Sept. 20.
The applicant, Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue, wants to rezone a 38.4 acre property at 5473 and 5453 Will Wheeler Road from agricultural residential use to planned residential development on land where there are already facilities for dogs such as kennels, a barn and ample space for dogs to exercise.
The nonprofit organization wants to fortify these existing facilities with improved fencing and add one additional building in order to create its rescue center for pitbulls and other kinds of dogs. When complete, the facility would be able to hold 100 dogs.
The organization spays and neuters dogs and tries to find foster homes for rehabilitated pets.
“Basically it would be a turnkey operation for us,” said Jason Flatt, the organization’s founder.
But several nearby residents said the current property has been a nuisance with only a dozen dogs there. Seven people spoke against the application during the public hearing, raising concerns about noise, safety and diminished property values.
“No one’s going to want to move in next to a humane society type of deal,” said Jerry Young, an adjacent property owner. Young said they often hear dogs barking late at night and a huge increase in dogs on the property would disturb neighbors.
Some said they were worried pitbulls would be more aggressive than most dogs and pose a safety threat to neighbors’ pets and farm animals. Flatt said he was not happy with the current state of the property and would work to secure it with better fencing, locks and areas for dogs to play and exercise. Someone would be at the property 24 hours a day, Flatt said, and no dogs would be left outside unattended or left out overnight.
Four speakers from Paulding County, where the rescue has its current facility, spoke in favor of the application, and Paulding’s Commission Chairman, Dave Carmichael, wrote a letter to the Hall County Planning Commission encouraging it to accept the plans.
“I hold Mr. Flatt in high regards and feel confident that his contributions will be of value to your citizens,” Carmichael wrote.
Flatt was already approved to rezone 46 acres of land in Paulding County for a new rescue facility, prompting some residents to ask why he wanted to move to Hall County. He said it was much cheaper for him to use the property on Will Wheeler Road, because most of the facilities they need are already built. The project would cost about $2.5 million, he said.
“I know that there’s stigmas (about pitbulls) out there,” Flatt said. “I know I have to be on my A-game. I have to be responsible. I have to keep my dogs safe; I have to keep my community safe.”
Commissioners were split on the vote, with Stan Hunt calling it one of his most difficult decisions to date.
“I understand the stigma is not necessarily accurate,” Hunt said. “But I also understand the reality of the stigma and the peace of mind of the residents, and that’s what I’m struggling with.”
Ultimately, the commission voted 3-1 to recommend denial of the application with Chairman Chris Braswell as the sole dissenting vote and Commissioner Johnny Varner not present for the meeting.
Flatt told the Times Tuesday, Sept. 21, he would regroup with his board and see if it was worth continuing to pursue the application. They may decide to stay in Paulding County, he said.
The application is set to go before the Hall County Board of Commissioners for a final decision on Oct. 14.