CLIFTON PARK -- The Clifton Park Planning Board has asked a local veterinarian to prove that noise from barking dogs will not be an issue at a new animal hospital he's planning to build.
The facility will be owned by Dr. Matthew Pike, who has owned the Aqueduct Animal Hospital on Balltown Road since 2009.
The new business, according to site plans, will be a 8,290-square-foot hospital and boarding facility on a 2.68-acre parcel at the southeast corner of the intersection of Balltown and Riverview roads.
It will also feature an approximately 1,188-square-foot covered play area for the animals. Access to the site is proposed via a shared entrance with Riverview Medical Professional Park.
The new operation, if approved by Clifton Park officials, will offer separate spaces for dogs and cats.
Offices for staff veterinarians and an office manager, as well as a break room for employees and an animal intensive care unit, are also planned for the Rexford location.
The area is classified as a mixed-use zone, which permits construction of animal hospitals and animal care facilities.
Initial reactions to the project from board members were largely positive, but there were issues -- noise mitigation among them -- that they tasked Pike with addressing before the project could move forward.
Residents of Schwaber Drive in Niskayuna, near the Aqueduct Animal Hospital, have complained about continuous barking at that facility and have petitioned Niskayuna officials for ordinance changes to mitigate the noise.
Pike said the decision to move his office was based on space, not noise complaints. The proposed building will be almost twice as large as the Aqueduct Animal Hospital.
No residents addressed the board about the plans at Tuesday's meeting, but board Chairman Rocky Ferraro said noise mitigation as has been done with other animal-focused projects in the past. He said the board often asks applicants to prove there won't be a noise issue or include mitigation options in project plans.
Ferraro added that he was not concerned barking dogs would be an issue.
"I just want to nip it in the bud in terms of questions that may come up, to assure folks that it's not an issue," he said. "But if the issue is raised about noise, to what extent can we respond to that and say it's not an issue?"
"We can certainly soundproof that building substantially," Pike said at the meeting.
Clifton Park Planning Director John Scavo has pointed out that the Animal Care Hospital of Clifton Park -- the project on Route 146 -- has stood for years directly next to a residential neighborhood. The board recently approved plans to have that hospital totally rebuilt, and during that process, there were no residents who voiced concerns about noise.
"There was zero controversy, and the residents and animal hospital have co-existed for years without a problem," he said.
Clifton Park's Town Code notes that no animal or bird owner can allow the pet to cause a noise disturbance for more than 15 minutes between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Disturbances include repeated barking, whining, screeching, howling and braying.
The animal hospital, according to Pike and project site plans, will include a large buffer of trees to help block noise from the outside of the facility. The building will be in the center of the parcel to achieve maximum tree cover.
Project engineers also plan to include a solid fence that will not allow dogs to see outside of the property, which would keep them from barking at passersby.
There will also always be staff outside with dogs at all times, Pike said, to keep them under control and to bring them inside if needed.
There are no residential dwellings bordering the site. Both planning board members and town engineers commented that ambient noise from trucks and cars on nearby Route 146 are much louder and longer-lasting than dogs barking.