Animal shelter to be built in New Castle

By jeanne starmack

new castle, pa.

After years of trying to finalize a location, an organization that takes care of homeless animals will build a no-kill shelter in Lawrence County.

Promises for Pets, which places animals in foster homes now, has tried for three years to secure a spot for the shelter, which will include a dog park and a veterinarian’s office.

It learned April 4 that it won a court case to allow the shelter in an R-2 district in New Castle, said its president, Susan Papa.

The organization owns 13 acres on Harbor Street that used to be the site of a sand and gravel company.

It bought the property last fall.

Neighbors from nearby Bell and McCleary streets objected to building a shelter there, and the city council voted down the proposal 3-2 in November, Papa said.

The organization took the issue to the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas in February, she said.

Papa said the organization argued that council had abused its discretion because the shelter fits conditional uses in the zoning district by analogy. She said the city doesn’t include an animal shelter in permitted uses but does include nursing homes and offices, so the shelter is a permitted use by analogy.

Now that Promises for Pets has the go-ahead from the court, Papa said, its goal is to break ground in the spring of 2013.

“We have to regroup in terms of financing,” she said last week, adding that she had several commitments for grants.

“But the delay with city council moved us out of 2011 to the 2012 calendar year,” she said, adding that the organization will apply for grants again.

The organization plans a 6,000-square-foot building that will be able to house 50 dogs and 80 cats, Papa said.

The veterinarian’s office would include emergency hours if the city grants permission, she said. Right now, hours of operation are limited.

Promises for Pets first tried in 2009 to locate its shelter on 20 acres near Lockley Elementary School in New Castle, but a revelation that the school district could take some of the property by eminent domain for an expansion of the school caused the organization to back out of that deal.

The group then exercised an option to back out of buying land in Hickory Township in the spring of 2011. An environmental study revealed the soil there was contaminated from an old landfill.

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