Petition Closed
Petitioning Montgomery County Zoning Appeals

Allow PAWSibilities Animal Rescue to continue to operate in the barn along Mainland Rd as an animal shelter.

PAWSibilities Animal Rescue (our about page) operates out of the barn along Mainland Rd in Harleysville, PA, about 1 mile off the Lansdale exit of the PA Turnpike’s northeast extension. The 2.2 acre property has 2 main buildings and a number of parking spaces for customers and visitors. Currently, the main building is used by Sher Photography as a photo studio and office and the second building is a barn built in the 1700′s. The barn and the property has served a number of uses over the years as a blacksmith, to a coffin maker and funeral home, and as a barn for housing and storing livestock and is a part of the rich culture of the Montgomery County, PA area. The barn is a recognizable landmark when exiting off the turnpike that shows exactly how far back this area has agricultural roots. Over the years, the area has changed significantly with many new housing developments and commercial spaces, but the barn has served the county and township residents for over 200+ years and definitely shows its age. The main building on the property used by the photo studio was built in the 1770′s.  When the property was bought in 1995 by Sher Carroll, Sher was required to apply for a zone variance to allow for the commercial use by Sher Photography because of the residential zoning. She applied and was approved for the variance.  Sher made the required business improvements, to the house and the barn was used by her then 8 year old daughter Samantha to raise sheep and goats and participate in Montgomery County 4H program. She started PAWS in 2009. It was then used to house and support local cats, rabbits, ducks, and chickens who needed help or new homes, but was very much still a barn from the 1700′s, spider webs and all. But the cats and other animals didn’t mind so we did the best we could with what we had.

During 2011 and finishing in 2012, the part of Sumneytown Pike/Route 63 in front of PAWSibilities was moved to improve the intersections at Wambold Road and at Old Forty Foot Roads. The old part of Sumneytown in front of our building is now identified as part of Mainland Road. Since they modified and moved the road, the end of Mainland now curves sharply to the left in order to intersect with Sumneytown before the Old Forty Foot Road intersection. During rush hour in the mornings, drivers use Mainland Road to cut around the backup that builds on Sumneytown Pike which brings speeders and distracted drivers through Mainland Rd. During the evening, drivers don’t notice the change in direction at the end of Mainland Rd, so if they are traveling any speed over 35 mph, they slam on the brakes and either skid to a stop or slam into the curb damaging their car. There are a lot of skid marks and we constantly hear screeching brakes and multiple accidents from plenty of distracted, speeding drivers.

During the summer of 2013, we were concerned for the safety of the people and the feral cats and ducks who cross the street, so Sher placed some cones and cat crossing signs near the road. When that did not seem to help, she moved a few cones into the middle of the road, however cars and trucks were still speeding and crashing. Eventually, someone called Towamencin Township who needed to come out and inspect. They told us to remove the cones from the road which we did.  They noticed our dumpster was in the wrong location (who knew?) and that cat adoption signs were posted without permits.

Because the complaint was forwarded to the township, the township is required to come out.  The complaint and citation happened in June 2013, and the township sent out Bill Webb who was recently hired in May 2013 by Towamencin to serve as zoning officer. Bill was professional and determined the residential zoning with usage variance applied to only Sher Photography, not a business called PAWSibilities Rescue. Sher discussed the agricultural zoning of the property and the usage of the shelter being agricultural was not a violation of the zoning in her understanding. Mr. Webb disagreed and cited PAWS for operating without a permit in the township, on a residential property.

The rescue has always operated with the expectation that the barn and the animals was considered agricultural and would be used only for the purpose of storing livestock which included the cats and other small farm animals.  If the barn was required to be compliant with residential or commercial building requirements, then that meant significant modifications to the barn that are unfeasible and unrealistic for a barn housing animals.  But that never stopped PAWS from investing in the safety of shelter volunteers and cats by ensuring the structural integrity of the barn and adding smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, exit signs and egress.

Neither PAWS or Sher Carroll realized a permit was required for businesses to operate in a township. Towamencin has no business guidelines book, as do some other municipalities.

PAWS hired a zoning lawyer and applied for a zoning variance or exception to have the township accept the shelter under the PA Commonwealth Right to Farm Act. Township officials did not seem interested in closing the shelter and seemed agreeable to work with us toward a resolution so the good work of PAWS in the community could continue.

We need your signature to show during our Montgomery county appeal hearing to show the community support for both the work that PAWSibilities does and to preserve the agricultural landmarks that are still used and operated within Montgomery county.

For more information and information from the township hearings, please visit... Help Save PAWS!

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