Yuppy Puppy Granted Variance Appeal

Joyce Coates
County Reporter
All is well that ends well, as Laurie Herrick, owner of The Yuppy Puppy, and her son, Adam, may agree is true, now after roadblocks they faced for the past three months are gone. As of Monday, May 11, The Yuppy Puppy is off to a strong new start.
The business at 185 W. Main Street in Warsaw, was brought nearly to a standstill just six weeks after it opened its doors for the first time, but not because of the coronavirus.
When they first opened, in addition to selling dog food and treats, miscellaneous pet supplies and providing grooming services, the Herricks also provided boarding. Laurie Herrick loves dogs, has taken care of them professionally for 16 years, and the growing customer base she enjoyed soon after opening confirmed there is room in Warsaw for the services Yuppy Puppy provides.
However, in October 2019, before finally deciding to open her business, Laurie and her father drove from McDonald County to the Warsaw City offices to inquire about getting a license to operate the canine boarding and grooming business in town. The person she needed to speak with was out of the office, so Herrick left her contact information. The next day she received a call from the City employee telling her there was no issue, no problem with her plan. 
Relying on that information, Herrick signed a one-year lease on the Main Street building on December 15, 2019, moved with three family members to Warsaw on January 1st, and opened her business on January 7, 2020. The State had inspected and approved the facility for boarding. 
Nevertheless, in February, Herricks learned she risked losing her license because zoning laws do not permit boarding services in C-2, the Main Street downtown area. By then, boarding had become a mainstay of the business. 
Laurie said, “I was never officially told by them [the City] that I couldn’t do boarding; I only was told by my niece. My niece worked for their attorney and she came over and told us. They never sent me a letter or anything, I just complied, due to the phone calls that I did have and made.” 
After boarding services closed down, the entire business slowed down and continued to do so by the time the coronavirus emergency resulted in stay at home orders. “The virus did affect us; we were very slow,” Herrick said. “Basically we shut down until I realized that our facility didn’t need to. However, staying open didn’t do any good either, because everyone was afraid to go out,” she added.
Herrick’s conversations with City officials about the possibility of a variance to the C-2 zoning restrictions left her expecting any application would be denied. Yet, she requested a formal hearing that was scheduled and held by the Board of Adjusters on May 7, 2020 at 4 PM on the ground floor of the Community Center. Five Board members, two City employees, and a full house that included Herrick’s family members and customers were present at the meeting.
Chaired by Board Member Mark Breshears, the meeting began on time and concluded after fewer than 20 minutes of polite and orderly exchanges among the attendees. Stating that the C-2 zoning restrictions did not authorize animal boarding and a variance is required, Breshears asked first for comments in favor of the variance. Ms. Herrick said that she had moved to the area and opened the business only after being told that boarding would be allowed. Otherwise, she would not have signed a lease and opened the business. However, once opened, she had stopped boarding dogs when told to do so.
One attendee said she was not opposed, but had concerns about the potential for noise and waste problems. Herrick assured her and the Board that she keeps an exceptionally clean facility with special floormats for dogs that are regularly cleaned and disinfected, at which time her supporters vouched for the cleanliness of the facility, and the exceptional level of hands-on care the two Herricks give the dogs. 
Chairman Breshears read a letter to the City from a local businessman, the only person who had thus far expressed opposition to the variance, citing zoning restrictions against boarding and the potential for noise and dog waste. 
Asked if she provides dog-walking services, Herrick said they could offer them for an extra charge, but that she would not walk dogs in the nearby city park because of the waste on the grounds that is not safe, health-wise for dogs or humans. In any case, dog-walking outside always includes using cleanup bags, but there is room inside her shop for the dogs to play and exercise. Herrick showed Board members photos of the play area and the gates that set off the exercise and boarding areas from the rest of the store.
On the subject of noise, an attendee said he had asked the owner of nearby Main Street Barber if he had heard any barking or noise from Yuppy Puppy when the boarding facility was operating, and the barber said he had not. Herrick related an incident at her previous facility when she had boarded a dog that barked and could not be quieted. It happens rarely, because when inside the dogs usually sleep through the night, but to solve the problem, she said, she called the owner to come and pick up the dog, which would be her practice if there were such a problem.            
As the hearing wound up, Board members asked for clarification on what terms would boarding services be offered. Herrick assured them that boarding would be for locals only, not for campers or tourists, and usually for short terms. She prefers to board no more than 2 or 3 dogs at a time, but at a maximum, she and Adam would each be able to take care of 3. 
Having stated earlier that opposition does not dictate a decision, Breshears called for a motion to vote on the application, which was made and seconded. Four members voted in favor and one against. The application for variance was approved, with limitations as follows: no more than 6 dogs boarded at a time at 185 W. Main Street and only during Laurie Herrick’s tenancy. 
The Board’s decision final and no further action required; The Yuppy Puppy is back in business.
Business hours: 8 AM – 5 PM, Monday through Saturday. Telephone:  (660) 428-2438.
Appointments: theyuppypuppyspa.com.