SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
The owner of a western Salisbury Township veterinary clinic wants to work with neighbors to resolve a dispute but at least one neighbor says he’s sought legal advice.
“I just want to be a good neighbor,” Dr. Samantha Ottinger, owner of Dr. Sam’s Veterinary House Calls, PC, 3115 W. Emaus Ave., Salisbury Township, said.
Ottinger spoke at the April 25 board of commissioners’ meeting during the courtesy of the floor portion. She referred to an article in the April 17 edition of the Salisbury Press “and the impact it had on me.
“I found the article in the paper to be very upsetting,” Ottinger said.
“I plan to talk to the neighbors. Maybe bake them cookies,” Ottinger said, turning to Scott Horvath, a neighbor who complained about the clinic at the April 11 township commissioners’ meeting.
At the April 25 township meeting, Horvath said he has sought legal representation in the matter.
Ottinger said she purchased the building 20 months ago, adding. “I have still not managed to get it open.
“Our costs have gone way over budget and I am looking for additional loans,” Ottinger said.
“I intend to support our community by being an upstanding business member,” Ottinger said.
“It probably could have been resolved had everyone gotten involved 20 months ago,” board of commissioners Vice President Debra Brinton said.
At the April 25 township meeting, commissioners urged Ottinger and neighbors to try to reach a compromise.
Ottinger attended the April 25 meeting with members of the clinic’s staff. The discussion about the clinic was about 50 minutes in length.
Ottinger said there are three areas that seem to be in contention: on-site visits for treatment of pets, or patients, as she calls them, use of the alley and stormwater concerns.
Neighbors, and apparently, township officials were under the impression the facility would be the site of a mobile clinic and that no on-site treatments would take place.
“It says right here: mobile veterinarian practice,” Brinton said, referring to a township form. Brinton said she visited the area of the clinic and walked the alley.
Ottinger said she applied for a use that stated the clinic would be used to treat pets.
“My intentions when purchasing the structure was that I always intended to have a clinic there,” Ottinger said. She said the property sale was contingent on approval of its use as a clinic.
“The purchase of the building was to see patients,” Ottinger said.
Ottinger emphasized, “We see most of our patients in homes.”
She estimated that patients, i.e., pets, would be seen for only about two hours, or 30 minutes for each appointment, Monday through Friday.
“I want to continue low-stress handling,” Ottinger said.
The clinic’s website lists phone and office hours 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. The facility is not open and will not be open Saturday and Sunday.
A newspaper article published Sept. 27, 2017, stated Dr. Sam’s Veterinary House Calls, which provides in-home veterinary services, was buying a property at 3115 W. Emaus Ave. to convert into a clinic.
A PennVet social media job site listing for Dr. Sam’s stated “Positions are available for veterinary associates.
“We are currently completely mobile, but will be adding in-clinic hours once the clinic is open,” stated the job listing.
The job post also stated, “We have recently purchased a building that we are renovating in order to allow us to see patients who do not require house calls, as well as to perform surgeries... Currently, we do all of our surgeries at a hospital, but we will soon have our own hospital to perform surgeries.”
The dispute regarding use of the alley centers on a “paper alley.” A paper alley is a street not dedicated to a municipality. In other words, the municipality doesn’t maintain the street.
Residents living near the clinic said they’ve been maintaining the alley for many years.
A parking lot at the back of the clinic includes one parking for the handicapped space and two additional parking spaces.
Neighbors have also expressed concern about runoff problems they say will be made worse by the clinic parking lot.
Salisbury Township Consulting Engineer David J. Tettemer of Keystone Consulting Engineers, Inc., said water runoff from the building is being directed to the front of the building along East Emaus Avenue and not toward the alley.
At the April 25 meeting, Horvath read from a letter he said was from an attorney he had contacted.
The letter, in part, as Horvath read it, stated the township zoning hearing board must review: the change from a mobile clinic to an on-site veterinarian’s office, the requirement for a 20,000-square-foot lot, whereas the clinic lot is 8,400-square-feet, the number of parking spaces and the alley, which is not intended for general traffic circulation.
At the April 11 township meeting, Salisbury Township Solicitor Atty. John W. Ashley said of the clinic, its employees and customers, “They have the right to use the alley to some extent.”
“You have two attorneys looking at the same thing and having different interpretations,” township Commissioner James Seagreaves said.
“That’s why you have two attorneys,” Ashley said.
Regarding use of the alley, “If it’s the same traffic, it could be used. If it’s more, then there would have to be some evaluation,” Ashley said.
Said Salisbury Township Assistant Township Manager-Code Enforcement Director Sandy Nicolo, who said he visited the area of the clinic, “In some respects, it’s going to be less of an impact than if a family is going to be there.”
“Where do we go from here?” board of commissioners President Robert Martucci Jr. asked.
“They can try and work it out,” Ashley said.
“It’s not going to work for me. A mobile use, yes, but not a clinic,” Horvath said.
“I’ll sit down and talk with you about it,” Ottinger said to Horvath.
Turning to township officials, Ottinger said, “I need to know if I can go ahead.”
Before the start of the April 25 meeting, Martucci announced, “We will have an executive session after the meeting for fact-finding for an agency matter.”
There was no workshop after the April 25 meeting.
The township board of commissioners next meets 7 p.m. May 9 in the municipal building, 2900 S. Pike Ave.