Doggie Daycare Wins Leesburg Council Approval

A former swim space at the Village at Leesburg is going to the dogs. 

The Town Council this week approved a special exception application for Playful Pack, which plans to use the former Swim Kids space for a doggie daycare and boarding facility, joining sister locations in Fairfax Station and McLean. A little more than 4,000 square feet of indoor space will be reserved for doggie daycare and overnight boarding, as well as 1,320 square feet of outdoor space in a rear yard for bathroom breaks and exercise.

Finding long-term retail tenants has long been a struggle for the operators of the Village at Leesburg, which brought in Rappaport a few years ago to oversee retail operations and eventually become a part owner of the development. CEO Gary Rappaport pointed out in addressing the council at the Tuesday night public hearing that the former swim school space had been vacant for two years, and that some of the retail spaces in the Village had never been occupied since its initial opening more than a decade ago. Finding uses that are “internet proof” has been a major charge for Rappaport, and he pointed to the successes of entertainment uses like Cobb Theatres, Bowlero and Atomic Trampoline.

Retail development on the property is also hampered by the Village’s split zoning, with some properties zoned for B-4 commercial use, and others zoned PRC, or Planned Residential Community district. Shane Murphy of Reed Smith, which manages retail leasing at the Village, said it would have been an easier approval process for Playful Pack had its desired space fallen within the PRC district. He also noted that in other areas where Playful Pack has opened, doggie daycares are considered a by-right use in commercial districts. In Leesburg, the council first had to approve a Zoning Ordinance amendment to establish use standards and definitions for overnight boarding and doggy daycare facilities—as previously only kennels had been spelled out in the ordinance—before a special exception application for such a use could be submitted. In that process, Murphy pointed out, another interested business, Dogtopia, chose to forego a Village at Leesburg location and open in Purcellville instead.

“We’re fortunate to have a partner in Playful Pack that was willing to wait and go through with the special exception,” Rappaport said.

Prior to the application coming before the Town Council, the town’s Planning Commission had recommended denial, citing concerns with the number of dogs allowed to be in the facility at one time, and also that boarded dogs would be left unsupervised overnight. Before coming to the council, Playful Pack decided to tweak its request, reducing the maximum number of dogs allowed in the facility from 100 to 80, and the number of dogs allowed for overnight boarding from 30 to 24. The lone exception would be for federal holidays, when 100 dogs would be allowed for doggie daycare, and 30 for boarding. Murphy explained that the facility would be monitored with cameras by staff during the overnight hours, as is done at Playful Pack’s other facilities.

Concerns still lingered on the council dais about the unsupervised overnight boarding , and were cited by both council members Suzanne Fox and Kari Nacy in their dissenting votes. Nacy also voiced concerns about the impact of odor and noise on nearby residents in the mixed-use development.

But several council members said they had worked the phone lines and found that unsupervised overnight boarding was somewhat of an industry standard. Councilman Ara Bagdasarian said what Playful Pack was offering was a “proven model” throughout the doggie daycare and overnight boarding industry, and Councilman Zach Cummings said he believed there was a “market need” for such a use in the development. 

The vote to approve the special exception passed by a 5-2 margin, with Nacy and Fox opposed. 

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