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WINSTED — “One way or another, we’re going to build the building,” Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) Executive Director Dale Picard said in an interview with The Winsted Phoenix. “Whether the town gives me a permit before I get to court, or the courts give me the permit, I will get the permit to build the building.”
Picard is referring to his struggle to get a special permit from the Planning and Zoning Commission to build a 7,000 square foot building for a dog kennel, an indoor exercise run, and office space at ECAD’s location on 149 Newfield Road.
The property has been owned by ECAD since 2003.
The nonprofit organization 501(c)(3) is operated by Picard and the Director of Programs Lu Picard.
According to the organization’s website at www.ecad1.org, the mission of the organization is to train dogs to help people with disabilities.
In the special permit application, a representative from ECAD wrote that the project is Phase 3 of a site plan that was previously approved in April 2016.
The building would allow for the housing of adult service dogs in training and would be located proximal to the existing training facility.
Dale Picard said that ECAD has been trying to get the special permit since February and it has cost the organization both substantial time and money in trying to obtain it.
A public hearing for the special permit application was scheduled to be held on November 23.
However, the application was withdrawn.
Despite this, Dale Picard told The Winsted Phoenix that he will resubmit the application and is investigating taking legal action against the town.
“I’m exhausting all avenues with the town,” Picard said. “I can’t go in front of the town or the board because they don’t want to see me until my court date gets here. We’ll have a judge settle this for us.”
Picard said that the new facility is critical for the organization’s operations.
“Once I open up the new building, all of the adult dogs will be moved out of the building at the bottom of our property,” he said. “The building at the bottom of our property will become a breeding center. I’ll be able to create a safe environment for my breeding stock and their babies there.”
Picard said that half of the new building would include a kennel for the adult dogs, while an office space would take up the other half.
Resident opposition
However, for the November 23 hearing, several residents submitted letters to the commission opposing the planned new building, including William Ahrens of 102 Newfield Road.
“While we feel the mission of ECAD is noble, we also feel Winchester Zoning Regulations and the town have failed to protect us against the threat ECAD poses to the value of our property and invasion of our privacy,” Ahrens wrote in his letter. “To say we are concerned is understated. As we now know, a business of this scale does not belong in a residential area such as this, and to allow for such an aggressive expansion would be a travesty for the residents of our neighborhood. ECAD has existing kennels currently in use located in one of the original buildings near Newfield Road. There is a history of barking dogs at the ECAD facility and while it’s been explained countless times that finished service dogs are trained to bark ‘only on command’, undeniably there are a large number of dogs not yet trained to that level, and they bark.”
Daniel and Amy Reeve of 147 Newfield Road wrote that they were concerned that the new building, if built, would infringe on their privacy as property owners.
In their letter, the two referred to ECAD’s education center building which was constructed in 2017.
“Once business began at the new building, we experienced a definite Increase in unknown vehicles in our driveway,” Daniel and Amy Reeve wrote. “We have witnessed many occasions where unknown vehicles drove up to our house only to turn around and leave. On one such occasion, I was blocked from getting down our driveway and had to get out of my car and speak to the driver who said she was looking for ECAD. On another occasion, we found a van with out-of-state plates stopped in our driveway at one of the pull-offs and when I spoke with that driver, she said they were looking for ECAD and trying to get correct directions from their GPS. The most frustrating incident happened during the construction of the existing building when a contractor drove up to our driveway, all the way across our front lawn nearly down to our horse pasture fence trying to reach the ECAD construction site. There was snow on the ground and our front yard gave no indication it was intended for vehicular traffic.”
When asked about the criticisms raised by residents, Picard said to The Winsted Phoenix “I know that the neighbors don’t like us being here because we don’t pay taxes.”
“Every time I get into an argument with the neighbors, the last line is the insult that we don’t pay any taxes over here and we shouldn’t even be in this town,” Picard said. “That’s how the neighbors treat us around here. It’s pretty hard to not get frustrated when talking about this to anybody.”
As for submitting its special permit application, Picard said that he will come back to the town with two plans: the original plan and a new plan that would create a two-story building on the same part of the property.
“Then I will tell the commission: you tell us which plan do you want us to use?” Picard said. “I’m at my wits end here. I’ve had these documents redrawn at least a half dozen times to appease the town. This has been expensive because I have spent over $100,000 just so I can try to get a special permit from the town.”
And if ECAD does not get a special permit, or if ECAD’s potential lawsuit against the town does not work, Picard said he would retire.
“I’m going to be 65 years old this coming year,” he said. “I’m not 30 years old anymore. I don’t look at it as we’ll never get the permit. We’ll get it eventually. We will keep going until they finally say yes or when the courts decide for them.”
As of December 4, ECAD is not listed on the agenda for the regular Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Monday, Dec. 14.
A second commission meeting for December is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 28.

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