Animal hospital plan spurs Warren shelter talk

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Workers at the cramped and flood-prone Warren Animal Shelter are keeping a close eye on a plan to bring a new animal hospital to town. One day, they hope, it could give them a chance at a new home of their own.

On Wednesday night, Dr. Wade Cordy of the Harbor Animal Hospital in Barrington will appear before the Warren Zoning Board with Carl Benevides, a Bristol developer and contractor. They seek zoning relief which will allow them to build a new shelter on the site of the former car dealership at 288 Market St., just across the street from Lucky Bait. The plan has already been reviewed by the Warren Planning Board and passed a crucial test before the Warren Town Council last Tuesday.

The property is currently owned by Morlaur Properties LLC, but if the zoning board grants a special use permit allowing an animal hospital in a rural business zone is granted (the land's zoning does not currently allow for such a hospital), Mr. Benevides said the plan is to close on the property's sale soon after. Construction would conceivably start over the summer and could be complete by the end of the year.

The plan is to renovate the existing 14,000-square-foot building, though the animal hospital will only need about 7,000 square feet. That extra room, both Mr. Benevides and Dr. Cordy said, presents possibilities.

"One of the things that we tossed around," Dr. Cordy said, is offering some of that vacant space to the town if officials ever decide to move the Warren Animal Shelter off Wood Street, which lies in a flood plain and often floods during summer and fall storms.

"If we can find the right avenues, and the town finds it workable, then I think it can be a win win," said Dr. Cordy. "It's a safer location."

Long way off

Warren Animal Control Officer Heidi Garrity has advocated for years for a new shelter, and a non-profit group, Residents United for Furry Friends (RUFF) has helped raised funds — now approaching about $20,000 — toward that end. The shelter has worked with Dr. Cordy for years, she said, and she is intrigued by the idea. Moving into a larger facility "would make my life much easier. We talked about it … if it's going to give me more room I'd be happy."

But there's a long way to go before the idea can even be discussed, Warren Town Manager Thomas Gordon said Friday.

"If the town were to decide that it was dissatisfied with its current location and wanted to look at other ways of sheltering its animals," officials would have to solicit proposals for a new shelter, he said. Once those proposals came in, "the council would have to sit down and the proposals would be looked at."

In his mind, the key questions here are "First of all, do you want to do it? And second of all, what do you want to do?"

The next step, providing the will is there, would be a budgeting process, and determining where the money would come from.

"It's a long way off," he said.

Dr. Cordy, who has performed pro bono spaying and neutering for Warren for years, said he wants to open the Warren location because the current 3,000-square-foot hospital on Maple Avenue in Barrington is too cramped. With the extra space he'll have, he's interested in following through with the town and coming to an agreement if the town wants to go that route.

"There are a ton of possibilities," he said.

First step, though, is the zoning board hearing. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 19, at Warren Town Hall.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.