By Gracie Hart Brooks


After months of back and forth, one local business has a permit for its expansion.

In February, Willow Hill Pet Salon owner Emily Howard, and husband John, applied for an indefinite special use permit to operate a kennel on their Courthouse Mountain property. The kennel would have been located in a building constructed solely for that purpose. However, the property was less than three acres, requiring a variance for two uses on less than six acres. There were also questions regarding if both uses would physically fit on the property and clerical issues with obtaining Virginia Department of Health approval. Howard tabled her request in April. It was subsequently revisited each month until Howard pulled the request in late August, opting to pursue a different option.

In paperwork filed Aug. 29, Howard requested a new special use permit, this time to operate a kennel in an existing structure located at 160 Kirtley Road in Madison. The property, which fronts U.S. 29 is owned by Mark and Colleen Grehlinger. The couple operated a used truck business out of the property as well as their Action Trackchair business, Offroad Trackchair LLC. The property is zoned B-1 business and is approximately 1.5 acres.

Howard plans to renovate the building and use it for the kennel, as well as her grooming business which is currently located on Main Street in the Town of Madison. She plans to serve approximately 20 animals for grooming and would likely board 10-15 animals daily with the number likely increasing during travel-heavy holidays. She would have up to six employees on-site and likely be open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The building’s upstairs apartment would be occupied by an employee.

She proffered that animals would not have outdoor runs, but would be exercised and walked in an outdoor, fenced area in which they’d be fully supervised. Howard also said all animal waste will be disposed of via waste containers that will be provided and dumped by a private waste management company.

Planning commissioners recommended approval of the special use permit application 8-0. Commissioner Peter Work was absent. They praised Howard’s perseverance through the long permitting process.

“You went through a lot and you stuck it out,” commissioner Pete Elliott said.

“It’s been a long road,” commissioner Mike Mosko added. “I think you’ve made a good choice.”

Supervisors approved the permit 5-0.

“It’s good to see you hear,” board of supervisors chairman Clay Jackson said. “Thank you for sticking with us.”

It’s unknown when Howard will move her business to its new location. The contract to purchase the property was contingent upon obtaining the special use permit. She also noted that some renovations will be done.

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