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East Hampton Town tackles legality of home-based businesses

The zoning board of appeals is to decide whether a home-based dog day care business is allowed under town code. But observers worry the case could set a precedent for any business in a home.

Lori Marsden of East Hampton and owner of

Lori Marsden of East Hampton and owner of her home-based business Lori's Pet Care walks her client's dogs on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

The East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals will soon decide if the operation of a home-based dog day care business is allowed under town law, a determination an attorney says could set a precedent for other home businesses in the town.

Lori Marsden operates Lori’s Pet Care from her Saddle Lane home, offering dog walking, dog sitting and occasionally overnight stays. A July 2018 decision from the East Hampton Building Inspector’s office found that Marsden’s business did not qualify as a home occupation, which is allowed under town code, largely because dogs could be observed entering and exiting her home. External evidence of a business is prohibited under town law.

Marsden’s East Hampton-based attorney Carl Irace in a letter to the ZBA said banning Marsden from operating out of her home for that reason would "defy common sense." He said upholding the decision would essentially put her out of business, noting the lack of affordable and available commercial spaces for rent in a town with a seasonal economy.

Music lessons, kayak tours, home-based tailors or any business requiring drop-offs or external noise could be jeopardized if building inspector's decision about Lori's Pet Care is upheld, Irace said.

"This is about more than one dog walker," he said in an interview. “This determination could put every home business out of business."

The home occupation law prohibits breeding kennels but does not mention boarding kennels. The building inspector's decision states pet walking could be allowed if the animals were not dropped off at her home.

“Patrons leave different pets at the residence. Clearly, this would produce external evidence of the pet sitting business, such as time periods when the dogs are taken out of the residence, whether for walks, playtime or to relieve themselves," according to a July 11, 2018, decision issued by town principal building inspector Ann Glennon.

Marsden is challenging the decision before the town zoning board, which is expected to issue a decision at its regular meeting Tuesday . Board chairman John Whelan could not be reached for comment.

Several residents spoke in support of Marsden during a Jan. 29 zoning board public hearing. 

Saddle Lane resident John Collier spoke in favor of the building inspector’s decision, noting the potential for dogs to get loose.

“As the parents of 2-year-old twins, we are greatly concerned for the safety of our children with a dog care facility operating across the street,” he said during the hearing.

Randall Parsons, a town planning board member speaking at the hearing as a private citizen, noted the case underscores the need to balance home businesses with neighbor's concerns.

"There is a great need for our year-round residents to try and make a living as much as they can in their own homes without bothering their neighbors," he said. 

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