Monday, June 25, 2001

Janice Schmidt plays with some of her feline boarders at
the Cozy Cat Lodge in Kailua. The Schmidts may have
to scale the kennel back to a five-cat limit.

Controversial kitty
kennel creates
conundrum for
Kailua couple

Their Cozy Cat Lodge
is in violation of a
land use ordinance

By Leila Fujimori

When Janice and Bill Schmidt decided to start the Cozy Cat Lodge on the lanai of their house, they thought they did everything by the book.

They obtained a business license and a building permit for the cat "spa" in November and have been pampering felines in clean, comfy cat condos and suites ever since.

But now the Kailua couple will need a little help from the city if they hope to keep the Cozy Cat open.

In March the Schmidts were cited for violating a land use ordinance after someone complained they were boarding cats. The city permits the occasional boarding of up to five animals per day for a home business in a residential area. Kennels are permitted in areas zoned agricultural, country, industrial, business or mixed use.

The Schmidts are seeking a variance from the city to continue to board up to 25 cats at their Olomana subdivision home. Officials with the city Department of Planning and Permitting say it would be the first variance for a kennel -- dog or cat -- in a residential area.

Complete with aromatherapy and an aquarium in every room, the lodge opened in November with just two cat clients.

"We had to expand because of a huge need for this service to the community," Janice Schmidt said. "The demand was so big because we're so unique and people were really looking for an alternative."

Soon the Schmidts were fielding requests for as many as 47 cats in one month. They can accommodate a maximum of 25 cats a day at a daily rate of $8 for a small condo to $14 for a luxury suite.

If the variance request is rejected, the Schmidts will have to scale back to the five-cat limit. A public hearing is scheduled for July 5.

Limiting the lodge to just five cats would "barely cover the overhead," Janice Schmidt said.

Income from the business supplements her husband's salary, and she set aside her other avocations, including new-age minister and holistic practitioner, to care for cats.

The Schmidts have won the support of their neighbors, the Olomana Community Association and the Kailua Neighborhood Board. A dozen neighbors signed a petition in support of the variance, and both community groups have voted in favor of supporting the variance.

"You don't even know that it's there," said Nancy LaVelle, who lives below the Schmidts. "They don't make a sound. The dogs down the street are more of a nuisance."

Kaimana Kualapai, who lives next door to the Schmidts, called the lodge a "good business."

"You can't smell anything. You can't hear anything," Kualapai said.

"I'm all for it," said Mary Roe, a board member of the Olomana Community Association. "I feel there's very much a need for it. There's nothing of the kind on the whole island."

One neighbor expressed concerns that the business may contribute to traffic on their street, where the city plans to install traffic-calming measures. The neighbor, who refused to be identified, said there are a lot of children in the area and that Maunawili Elementary School is located nearby.

"Businesses should be in business zones," he said.

Kualapai disagreed.

"There are cars but it doesn't cause traffic," she said.

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