A Davidson County General Sessions Court referee on Wednesday sentenced the owner of an East Nashville doggie daycare to five days in jail after the business opened, and stayed open, without a proper permit.
Chad Baker, owner of The Dog Spot, has one week to appeal the decision. Baker’s attorney Hans Schmidt said he plans to appeal the decision before 5 p.m. Friday when Baker’s jail time is set to begin.
“I’m not above the law, and I expect to be punished,” Baker said after the court hearing. “But I also want the laws to make sense.”
Baker, along with twin brother Andy Baker, opened the doggie daycare in August even though the business lacked a use and occupancy permit. Metro has determined the building violates parts of the Gallatin Road Specific Plan, a set of newly adopted zoning guidelines aimed at improving the corridor’s aesthetics. Baker and others say the regulations are unreasonable.
Nonetheless, court referee Jim Todd Wednesday found Chad Baker in criminal contempt of court for not following a prior order to either shut down operations of the doggie daycare or make parking and signage adjustments to comply with zoning requirements.
“I agree with you in what you’re doing over there: making a vacant lot into a business and providing jobs. The city wants to encourage that,” Todd said Wednesday.
“But codes inspectors are important,” he said. “I took an oath to follow the law and to be fair, and in doing so, I have to put you in jail.”
If Todd had found Baker in civil contempt of court, Baker would have to close his business immediately. Todd said he opted against doing so because he didn’t want The Dog Spot employees to lose their jobs.
Baker, who had garnered at least 136 signatures Tuesday in support of The Dog Spot, plans to address remaining Gallatin Road SP compliance issues before the Metro Planning Commission in December. Issues include parking, which is required to be at the building’s rear.
Before delivering the order, the referee also referenced an episode in which a Metro Codes department inspector was apparently locked inside The Dog Spot while trying to assess the building. Baker has rejected such accusations.
“I just cannot overlook the flagrancy of which the codes inspector was treated, and the flagrancy of which you ... still continue to violate a court order,” Todd said. “I just don’t see any way around it.”
Codes violations aren’t unusual.
What makes The Dog Spot case stand out is its focus on the Gallatin Road SP, the zoning regulations Baker has violated. Since its inception in 2007, developers and other have scoffed at the new East Nashville zoning requirements for making the planning process too difficult to navigate. They say the SP has thwarted development.
“The SP makes no sense, it’s confusing,” Baker said Wednesday. “I tried to do it the right way. I tried to work with the [Metro] Planning Department, but I couldn’t get a straight answer of what was required of me.
“And so I pay the consequences,” he said.