Metro Codes cracks down on new East Nashville doggy daycare

Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 6:46pm

The opening of a new East Nashville doggy daycare prior to final zoning inspections has led Metro Codes to issue a stop work order notice, making the business the potential target of criminal prosecution if operations continue without the department’s clearance.

“They have opened for business before they have obtained a use and occupancy certificate,” said Metro Codes Director Terry Cobb, adding that certain conditions were required to be met before opening. “They have opened prematurely.

“We’ve issued a stop work notice,” Cobb added. “Our next step would be to issue a warrant and prosecute in environmental court.”

Cobb’s statements are directed at The Dog Spot, a new doggy daycare, grooming and training establishment at 1004 Gallatin Ave., situated inside the building that previously housed Hot Flix, a purple-painted discount pornographic video shop with a disturbing history –– the former Hot Flix owner hanged himself there in April 2010.

The Dog Spot, which has five full-time employees, opened on Aug. 22. Owners –– both of the daycare and the building –– are twin brothers Andy and Chad Baker, whom many in East Nashville commonly call the “The Baker Boys.”

Metro Codes inspectors visited The Dog Spot earlier this week where they photographed Chad Baker holding the stop work order notice while giving a middle-finger gesture to the photographer. The picture has been circulating in Metro circles. Cobb has a copy.

“That’s the photo of the week,” Cobb said. “It’s posted on my bulletin board behind my desk.

“The caption would be, ‘Notice has been delivered, and receipt of said notice has been acknowledged,’ ” he added. 

Chad Baker, The Dog Spot’s principal owner, could not be reached for comment. According to The Dog Spot manager Michael Minunno, Baker is en route to Jamaica with his girlfriend.

Armed with blueprints and Metro zoning documents, Andy Baker –– who works with his brother –– stopped by The City Paper offices Thursday to discuss the codes department’s stop work order. He expressed ill will toward the Metro Planning Department and said building requirements are simply too expensive to follow.  

“We went into planning from day one trying to do this the right way,” Baker said. “And we got the shaft.”

The Bakers’ angst is rooted in the Gallatin Road Specific Plan, a set of design and aesthetic zoning guidelines –– which include required setbacks, materials and uses, for example –– approved in 2007. Celebrated by urban enthusiasts, the Gallatin Road SP is routinely blasted by developers for supposedly thwarting new development along the pawn shop-laden corridor.  

By law, animal boarding facilities along Gallatin Avenue must operate at least 200 feet away from residences. The Dog Spot is located 155 feet away from a house.

The Metro Planning Commission voted last winter to exempt The Dog Spot from this requirement, so long as the Bakers agreed to certain conditions.

According to planning department spokesman Craig Owensby, the applicants agreed to add landscaping to the building’s front and rear, oversee various improvements and a “curb cut” along the front entranceway, and locate parking in the back of the building. They were allowed to keep one handicap-parking spot at the front of the building. 

By not having to navigate a traditional zone change, Owensby said the arrangement saved the Bakers $1,400.

“They submitted a site plan which was approved by the commission, and they haven’t followed the site plan,” Owensby said.

Lacking a use and occupancy certificate, Andy Baker acknowledged, “We’re illegally operating. There’s not much defense to that.”

But Baker, who characterized the zoning application process as “nasty” and political, said the planning department is demanding requirements that go beyond what they should have to carry out.

“We don’t have the means to do what they want us to do, which is above and beyond what the law requires us to do to open,” Baker said, adding he’s working with newly elected East Nashville council members Anthony Davis, Scott Davis and Peter Westerholm to rectify the situation.

“We just don’t have the money to do all the paving and the parking,” he said.

Baker claims the planning commission has intentionally asked him and his brother to meet conditions they cannot. He also pointed to the Gallatin Road SP clause for existing “nonconforming buildings,” which refers to structures built before the passage of the new zoning law.

“It’s italicized,” Baker said, the zoning document in his hand. “Compliance of the SP is not required for the utilization of existing nonconforming structures, provided there is no expansion. That describes our building.”

He said planners say his structure doesn’t qualify as nonconforming because his building doesn’t meet the 200-foot distant requirement. But he stressed that transforming an adult bookstore to a doggy daycare, in fact, “furthers the goals of the Gallatin Road SP.”

In 20-minute interview, Baker called it “crap” and “illegal” that The Dog Spot would have to comply with standards that new buildings –– not existing ones –– are supposed to follow. He accused the planning department of “trying to make an example out of us.”

Owensby, of the planning department, rejected Baker’s assertion.

“That’s just not true,” Owensby said. “No way is that true.”

Baker says he has more than 100 letters of support from business neighbors and others in support of his operations. He said he has requested a special hearing to discuss The Dog Spot’s issue before the planning commission.   

12 Comments on this post:

By: theone on 9/22/11 at 6:49

If you know about the rules and laws BEFORE you opened the daycare, why would you decide to go ahead and open the business and then complain that codes is unfair when YOU did not follow the rules? Here's a novel idea-- If you don't like it move!

By: Nitzche on 9/22/11 at 8:34

you obviously work for the government? you have no idea how private business"s run

By: Community-carl-... on 9/23/11 at 6:54

This is just one small example of how over reaching government buroacrates confound, undermine, and destroy start-ups of small businesses and the free enterprise system that used to be the backbone of this country.

By: sidneyames on 9/23/11 at 6:57

This all appears to be about "personality". This doggy day care appears to be good for the neighborhood. Metro, get over it! Move it through. It employs 5 more people and will generate revenue and taxes. AND, isn't that what ya'll want? Get over it metro. 45' is nothing to shut a business down over.

By: Community-carl-... on 9/23/11 at 6:59

In response to Sidneyames: "Amen!"

By: Corn Dawg on 9/23/11 at 7:28

If you don't have the money to pay all the startup costs related to a small business - including the costs to be compliant with regulations you already knew existed - then you shouldn't be running a business. Period.

There is no Constitutional right to open up your own business. Especially not for people who think the laws don't apply to them.

This couldn't have been that important to the "Baker boys" or they wouldn't have flipped off the people who they have to get approval from and then skipped the country on a getaway vacation. Now there's some good business sense.

And geez, "doggy day care"?!? Cry me a river that a bunch of East Nashville trust fund babies can't spoil their mutt now.

This whole story is a joke - I hope Metro sticks it to these fools.

By: thetruthwillset... on 9/23/11 at 8:41

If you wonder why these brothers have a nickname in East Nashville its because they are infamous, not famous or well-liked. They battle with codes all the time because they are slumlords. This is not their first battle with codes nor are they somehow unwitting in their violation of the rules. That is their modus operandi.

As for "trust fund babies" living in East Nashville, I think Corn Dawg needs a new compass or map. As a long-time resident of the Eastside, I can't say I've met one permanent resident that would qualify as a "trust fund baby" or even the more likely "trustafarian". Many may visit to take in meals at our fine dining establishments or to slum in our watering holes, but they don't yet live here. I will admit there are more than a couple of "royalty rich writers" spending their days in local coffee shops, but they are time rich and cash poor.

By: Bellecat on 9/23/11 at 8:41

Don't have the money to comply with regulations, but do have the money for a Jamaican jaunt with the girlfriend?? Hmm.

By: Community-carl-... on 9/23/11 at 9:37

Apparently, some of the bloggers on this subject have more background information on the brothers than I do. Nevertheless, I would still rather have a doggy daycare in that building than another pawnshop, tavern, liqour store, or porn shop, etc.

By: RTungsten on 9/23/11 at 12:58

I guess I won't be using my "free day of daycare" at the Dog Spot they were giving out last weekend at Centennial Park. I didn't know the Bakers were behind this, but it makes sense. They are quite slummy.

By: Apple99 on 9/23/11 at 1:54

Agreed, the Bakers are slumlords and horrible people. I hope that codes get them for some other violations!

By: guppymax on 9/27/11 at 6:53

Not only are the Baker brothers horrible landlords, but they hate their adopted neighborhood. They alienate their neighbors by calling codes on them to push out what they consider "undesirable." They use cheap and shoddy products when they make repairs to properties they own.

These two people are pariahs and are just getting the karma they deserve. I hope it hurts both their pocketbooks and their egos. As for the employees and the dog owners, I wish them nothing but the best.