This photo shows a few Happy Sweetpea Faces! Thank you to all the Volunteers, Neighbors and Paxton residents, supporters and Town Officials! Our Variance and Special Permit were approved at the ZBA meeting tonight! We have 20 a day waiting period and then we can apply for our Permit to Rebuild our Shelter! 🙂
The Zoning Board of Appeals voted 5-0 on Oct. 19 to grant a special permit to Sweetpea Friends of Rutland Animals, Inc., to reopen, and voted 4-1 to grant a variance for the setback from the road. The setback variance was required because the existing buildings are too close to the property line, as the building was built before the zoning law was enacted.
That means that we can rebuild, once we have the rebuilding permit approved (hopefully soon)!
💖 SWEETPEA STRONG! We are so thankful to all of you!
In preparation for applying to the Zoning Board, Sweetpea’s attorneys referred us to an engineer to prepare the site plans required by the Zoning Board. Unfortunately the plans that we had in our possession from previous work done did not meet the requirements of the Zoning Board. We contracted with the engineer and the work is in progress.
While this is being done, our Rebuild Committee is meeting with contractors to get estimates on demolition and building a new shelter on the footprint of what was there. As much as it has pained us to leave the destroyed kennel there, we have never gotten a clear answer from the town if tearing it down before we have permits to rebuild would adversely affect us.
Our tax return was filed on Monday, May 15, to meet the filing extension deadline for Fiscal Year 2016. We are now working with our accountants to prepare a review required by the Attorney General’s office. Last year was a challenge because we went from leasing the property in Paxton to purchasing it in April 2015. We were in the midst of preparing for renovations when the kennel fire occurred. In the aftermath of the fire, we were blessed with the generosity of the public. That significantly increased our income for that short period of time and overwhelmed our very basic volunteer bookkeeping which challenged our accountant. Since then we have been working with the accountants to accurately report those events and to improve our accounting system going forward.
As we have said in the past, all funds donated for rebuilding are secure in a Rebuild account and are to be used only for that purpose. Undesignated donations are used to maintain the existing property and to help care for a small number of cats that we are able to keep in foster care homes.
We hope to get back to you soon with more news of progress.
It has certainly been a difficult 16 months since our devastating fire, and we wish more than anything we could provide you with news of rebuild. We recognize that it is exhausting for all to hear about nothing but obstacles, permitting issues, roadblocks, and other setbacks.
Before our new Board of Directors was formed, our president, Dick Clark, and then treasurer, Mary Clark, engaged a law firm on Sweetpea’s behalf to begin to work aggressively with the Town of Paxton on issues with permits and zoning. This is an active process that takes time. We have received many goodhearted suggestions that we truly appreciate, and we have followed up on all of them. We assure you that we are leaving no stone unturned. In keeping with our promise to remain transparent, information can be found here on our website and on our Facebook page. Members of our board are actively learning how to edit the pages of our website for times when our webpage administrator is not available. Once they are able to edit, it will be easier to keep it up to date.
We are the first to acknowledge that the public deserves to be kept up to date on our status, but the reality is, there is no more to say at the moment. Our mission is to serve homeless animals and it is distressing to our volunteers not to be able to fulfill this mission. That is the bottom line, and the one thing that keeps us going. We need to rebuild to save the animals in need, and so are remaining confident that we will get there. Sweetpea has had a very strong community of volunteers and supporters that have helped hold us together during this time. The truth of the matter is, we cannot rebuild without your continued support. Our new board is working towards learning their roles and taking on tasks; names and pictures of our officers and board members are posted on our website, and meeting minutes will be posted as they are accepted. Right now our focus is on keeping our name out there, attending events, and holding fundraisers so we can continue to pay the expenses on the property.
As mentioned earlier, we have hired lawyers to help us work with the town and decipher what we need to do, what paths we need to or can attempt to take, and what our legal rights are. We have also been working with a new accountant to ensure all reporting is done properly, although due to the circumstances of the fire, we have asked for and received a filing extension for our taxes.
We are a group of dedicated volunteers that want nothing more than for Sweetpea to get back on its feet. If there is anything more that you suggest that we should do to improve communication and keep or restore your faith in us, please let us know. In conclusion, our situation is not what we want it to be, nor where we expected it to be 16 months after the fire, but we continue to fight for the rebuild. We hope the hurdles with the town can be resolved soon so that rebuild can begin, and that we still have our greatest asset, you, our supporters, through it all. Thank you for your continued support and belief in Sweetpea.
Isaiah is our honored Guardian Angel this month! He collected donations for Sweetpea for his birthday and is shown here with all the goodies he collected for us. Isaiah is the brother of another of Sweetpea’s Guardian Angels, Michaela, who donates the profits from her lemonade stand and craft works to Sweetpea. Many thanks, and hugs and kisses on your birthday, Isaiah, from Sweetpea – you made our work a lot easier!