After more than a decade of legal wrangling, Goochland County withdrew it latest litigation against the Paws Inn kennel in Centerville.
On Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner granted a motion by the county to non- suit its current case against Paws Inn that would have essentially closed the business. The action was taken “with prejudice,” which means that the suit cannot be brought again.
Depositions in the matter given by current and former county employees on February 18 seem to have undermined the county’s contention that Paws Inn violated zoning laws.
Comments made during court proceedings seemed to indicate that a former county employee told the truth, the whole truth and then some under oath while being deposed on February 18, 2011. Statements made by other individuals that same day seem to have, as Judge Sanner put it, “tanked” the county’s case. Counsel for Goochland County carefully avoided revelation of specifics of those depositions in open court.
A motion made by Paws Inn counsel to sanction the county to pay legal fees incurred by Paws Inn owner Debbie Gibson was denied.
At issue, allegedly, was whether or not the kennel is permitted to be located on one acre in a B-1 zoning district.
Over the years the county contended that it had no knowledge that Gibson planned to open a boarding kennel, even though she obtained building and health department permits from the county.
At one point, the county claimed that the zoning administrator had made a mistake by approving the Paws Inn and that did not bind the county to allow Paws Inn to continue operation.
By all accounts, Gibson runs a successful business with many satisfied customers. Goochland has way too few businesses so the maneuvers to make Gibson shut her doors are all the more puzzling.
There have been complaints of barking dog noise, escaped animals and so forth. One acre on Plaza Drive, regardless of zoning laws, is an unlikely location for a kennel. Gibson has testified on numerous occasions that she was guided to that site by county planning officials.
More sinister motives behind the county’s relentless persecution of Gibson are unrelated to barking dogs.
The Paws Inn property is located near Interstate 64 and utility lines. It is also on the edge of several other parcels that could be combined to provide a site for a larger business. Some have speculated that there may have been plans to locate a hotel there, if only that pesky Paws Inn would go away. Forcing Gibson out of business could have made her eager to sell the property for a depressed price just to get out from under.
Had the county been proactive, it would have worked to match Gibson with another landowner with property in a place more suitable for a kennel and helped to broker some sort of swap. Then the county would have solid evidence that it is pro business.
Instead, those with power and influence seem to have worked behind the scenes to drive Gibson out of business.
Using its customary ham-fisted approach to this matter, the county is left with egg dripping down its chin, again.
The county’s handling of this matter has much larger implications. Why would anyone in their right mind want to open a small business in a place that treats people like Paws Inn?
Lawyers representing Goochland and county employees were doing what they were told. It is still unclear who is behind the curtain pulling the strings on this puppet show.
Hopefully, this chapter is not only closed, but one of the last illustrations of the embarrassing and unethical behavior that has come to be identified with Goochland County.
To the gentle reader who classified GOMM as an idiot for not being sensitive to discomfort of living behind a kennel, where were you when all of the property lining Plaza Drive was rezoned for business? What would you do if your livelihood was threatened so someone could make a buck?