Dog dispute in Lee County heads to Superior Court

Couple who provide safe haven for dogs are told to remove kennel from neighborhood

LEESBURG _ The owners of a dog kennel adjacent to an upscale Lee County subdivision have filed a lawsuit against the Lee County Commission after the county attorney told them they must “cease and desist” operating their safe haven for dogs.

The lawsuit is the latest step in a dispute that has been coming to a head for the past several months. Residents of Brittany Plantation in western Lee County have appeared before the County Commission numerous times in the past year attempting to get the elected officials to close a dog kennel operated by Wes and Kim Terrell on Pinewood Road.

The Terrells built their home there with the intention of building a kennel to house dogs that were down to their last option before euthanasia. They contend their property is zoned agriculture, which would allow the operation of a kennel.

Residents of Brittany Plantation, however, said the property is zoned for single-family dwellings and that the kennel, which often has as many as 50 dogs, is disruptive to their lifestyle and detrimental to their property values.

Both sides, accompanied by attorneys, stated their cases Feb. 11 in a meeting before the County Commission. The commission listened to the people involved, then held an executive session lasting about an hour. After the closed session, the commission adjourned without taking any action.

Although nothing was discussed or announced in an open session, County Attorney Jimmy Skipper sent the Terrells a letter on Feb. 14 telling them they were in violation of county zoning ordinances. They were given 10 days to shutter the kennel.

The Terrells, acting through attorney T. Gamble of Dawson, filed a civil action against the County Commission, requesting a declaratory judgment hearing before a judge of Lee County Superior Court.

“Their action, basically, asks that a judge decide who is correct when two parties have a disagreement about the interpretation of an ordinance,” said Ron Rabun, Lee County manager.

Rabun said the county was willing to work with the Terrells and give them time to find other accommodations for the dogs. There was some sentiment on the commission to help them find an alternative site for the kennel, but that never materialized, one commissioner said.

Gamble said the Terrells believe “the rezoning is void, and that when it changed to residential it was improperly done.”

“We think it’s fundamentally unfair for any citizen to ask to rezone pro0perty in which they have no interest in,” Gamble said.

Gamble predicted it would be about three months before the matter comes before a judge, allowing each side time to review “things on file on that property for the last 15 years.”

Gamble said he would not be surprised to see the case eventually land in the Georgia Court of Appeals.

“There’s some things here probably never heard by the Appeals Court,” Gamble said.