Nittany Greyhounds, a rescue kennel in Halfmoon Township that has found homes for former racing dogs since 2009, runs a boarding operation to support the nonprofit rescue mission.
But a neighbor, who subdivided the property on which the kennel sits, has long thought the boarding operation makes the kennel a commercial enterprise, and therefore in violation of Halfmoon Townships zoning.
The townships zoning board agreed with the neighbor, Don Houtz, this week, overturning the zoning officers decision that there is no violation to the townships zoning laws.
And that started a 30-day countdown for Nittany Greyhounds: Appeal the decision to the Centre County Court of Common Pleas or shut down.
While the clock ticks down, the dispute has put both sides far from agreement on the issue.
Its devastating to us because we worked for 10 years to get this kennel, said Toni Duchi, who helps run the Nittany Greyhounds rescue kennel and the boarding operation called Rooo Valley. We were totally stunned. Theres no basis for these accusations.
Houtz disagrees. He owns and runs Houtz Self Storage and likens the kennel to a business. He said if his business had to follow the zoning rules and have a site plan and get permits, then the Nittany Greyhounds should, too.
Its just a complete violation of all government processes in the township, Houtz said.
The zoning board overturned a previous decision by David Piper, Halfmoon Townships zoning officer. Piper determined Nittany Greyhounds isnt breaking the zoning because dogs are permitted under state agricultural zoning laws.
Piper said nonprofits such as a fire company or a church hold fundraisers like dinners, yard sales and like all the time. So he thinks the kennel has the same rights.
I dont see a physical difference between the two, Piper said.
Houtzs appeal of Pipers decision led to two nights of testimony in front of the townships zoning board.
The board members, who are not affiliated with the townships supervisors or operations aside from their role on the board, announced their decision Tuesday night. A written order is expected soon.
Houtz said his issue is not with the rescue function of the kennel. He thinks that should be able to continue.
We love the greyhounds, he said.
But the catch is the rescue and boarding operations go hand in hand, Duchi said. The kennel needs the money from boarding dogs to pay for the propertys mortgage, she said.
Supporters for Nittany Greyhounds have taken their cause online, mobilizing a donation campaign to pay for its legal bills on the website gofundme.org/nittanygreys.
They also are getting comments of support on Facebook.
Duchi hopes the local community will support them, too, as they face this uncertainty.
Nittany Greyhounds is a site for community service programs, she said, and the organization had an antique car show fundraiser at the Patton Township Home Depot in May.
Houtz also takes issue with the increased traffic he said hes seen from the kennel. He calls it a liability to his storage businesss customers.
Houtz said when he subdivided the property, he carved out a 40-foot right-of-way instead of a 50-foot one, as required for commercial development, to safeguard against that.
Duchi said her group plans to appeal the zoning decision to the county court.
In the meantime, the kennel and boarding operation remain open.
Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616. Follow him on Twitter @MikeDawsonCDT