Kennebec Valley Humane Society’s proposed new 19,000-square-foot facility gained Augusta Planning Board approval Tuesday night. It will be built on 77 acres of land it owns at 168 Leighton Road in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — A proposal to build a new 19,100-square-foot, $6 million animal shelter on former farmland has been unanimously approved by the Planning Board.

Construction of the new Kennebec Valley Humane Society headquarters at 168 Leighton Road, which would replace what officials said is their outdated facility on Pet Haven Lane off Western Avenue, could start in late summer or early fall and be ready to house homeless animals about a year after that.

The new facility, approved by the Planning Board on Tuesday, is planned to come with “dog-height” windows so adoptable pooches can see outside; kennel and other animal areas designed to help reduce stress in adoptable animals; and plenty of space where public vaccination clinics and other community services can be provided.

The new building would be on a 77-acre parcel of former farmland, about 11 acres of which will be developed with the new animal shelter and 58 parking spaces. Officials estimate the facility will provide much more space that would allow for expanded services and programming beyond what can be provided now at the humane society’s 12,000-square-foot building. It’s current facility sits on a small parcel of land the society does not own.

“We’re building a new facility because our current facility is outdated. We have stressful, outdated kennels … and we don’t actually own the land we’re on,” Hillary Roberts, executive director of the shelter that’s been in Augusta since 1927, told the Planning Board on Tuesday. “The 77-acre plot we purchased is really a promise to the future of the organization. We’re excited about expanding our services and being able to provide services to the public, things we can’t do in our current facility, like high volume spay/neuter, public access to rabies vaccinations, things like routine vaccinations for animals we want to offer in our community. We want to be not just an animal shelter, but a community center.”

The shelter’s current facility is built on land that was deeded to it by the Davis family, owners of the Pine Tree Veterinary Hospital, which is adjacent to the current facility. The humane society can’t sell the property, which will revert back to the family when the shelter moves.


The proposal faced no opposition in Tuesday’s major development review and public hearing before the Augusta Planning Board, and only a few questions.

An artist’s rendering shows the proposed new Kennebec Valley Humane Society facility on Leighton Road in Augusta. Photo courtesy of Peter Bethanis

Cathy Cobb, board member, asked about sound levels and whether, with the likelihood of barking dogs, the shelter would be able to stay within city ordinance requirements that cap decibel levels at property lines.

Peter Bethanis, architect on the project, said the building was designed with barking dogs in mind, and is built with walls in the sound transmission class of 55, which he said is high enough that “if you and I were going to have a loud, loud, hollering conversation you wouldn’t hear it.”

He said a challenging part about limiting noise was balancing that goal with the goal of having large windows extending down low enough so that dogs in their kennels can see outside. He said that would be addressed with inserts that will be put in windows that should triple their sound attenuation efficiency and make it so anyone outside the building, even in the area near the dog kennels, would only hear a muffled barking sound.

He said the facility’s outdoor dog pens should be far enough away from the property lines that neighbors won’t be able to hear barking from the site.

A few single-family homes are across the street from the site, which is otherwise surrounded by businesses.


Cobb said her questions were about noise at the property line, and said she agreed it seemed like the area where dogs will be kept is far enough away from abutters that barking noise shouldn’t reach them. She joined her fellow board members in voting in favor of the project.

“I think it’s a wonderful project, you know, perfect for that piece of land,” said board member Peter Pare. The project site is the former Curtis Prime family farm, where a single-family home and farm buildings were demolished in 2019.

An artist’s rendering shows the proposed new Kennebec Valley Humane Society facility on Leighton Road in Augusta. Photo courtesy of Peter Bethanis

The site straddles two city zones, Planned Development and Rural River, and the use is permitted in those zones, according to Betsy Poulin, city planner. The new shelter will be accessed via the existing driveway, which will be improved, and 58 parking spaces will be around the building. Outdoor dog exercise areas will be located to the north of the building.

Ponds will be added to the site to collect stormwater, and obtaining a stormwater permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection, a process officials said is already underway, is a condition of the board’s approval.

The unused portion of the property will be available for the shelter’s many volunteers to take dogs on walks, and a field on the site will continue to be harvested for hay in a partnership with a nearby farm, Roberts said.

The $6 million project will be paid for with fundraising efforts. The organization already has more than $4 million in donations committed to the project, including a $2 million gift from longtime shelter supporters Charlie and Nancy Shuman, their family, and their Augusta-based car dealership, Charlie’s Family of Dealerships. Roberts said that is the largest gift the shelter has ever received.

Roberts said animals, mostly dogs and cats but sometimes rabbits, birds and pocket pets, like small rodents and mammals, come to the shelter in three ways: As surrenders from local community members; as strays found in the area; and through a partnership with a rescue organization in the southern part of the country which transports animals “from very high-kill shelters and brings then up here so instead of being euthanized they’re placed in the arms of families in the greater Augusta community. When those cute dogs and puppies come up, we have a line out the door, we have to hand out tickets for people who line up for them. It’s a vibrant adoption program.”

She said the shelter places 97% of the animals that come into its care.


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