Doggie daycare owner gets jail time for opening without a permit

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 7:31pm

A Davidson County General Sessions Court referee on Wednesday sentenced the owner of an East Nashville doggie daycare to five days in jail after the business opened, and stayed open, without a proper permit.

Chad Baker, owner of The Dog Spot, has one week to appeal the decision. Baker’s attorney Hans Schmidt said he plans to appeal the decision before 5 p.m. Friday when Baker’s jail time is set to begin.

“I’m not above the law, and I expect to be punished,” Baker said after the court hearing. “But I also want the laws to make sense.”

Baker, along with twin brother Andy Baker, opened the doggie daycare in August even though the business lacked a use and occupancy permit. Metro has determined the building violates parts of the Gallatin Road Specific Plan, a set of newly adopted zoning guidelines aimed at improving the corridor’s aesthetics. Baker and others say the regulations are unreasonable.

Nonetheless, court referee Jim Todd Wednesday found Chad Baker in criminal contempt of court for not following a prior order to either shut down operations of the doggie daycare or make parking and signage adjustments to comply with zoning requirements.

“I agree with you in what you’re doing over there: making a vacant lot into a business and providing jobs. The city wants to encourage that,” Todd said Wednesday.

“But codes inspectors are important,” he said. “I took an oath to follow the law and to be fair, and in doing so, I have to put you in jail.”

If Todd had found Baker in civil contempt of court, Baker would have to close his business immediately. Todd said he opted against doing so because he didn’t want The Dog Spot employees to lose their jobs.

Baker, who had garnered at least 136 signatures Tuesday in support of The Dog Spot, plans to address remaining Gallatin Road SP compliance issues before the Metro Planning Commission in December. Issues include parking, which is required to be at the building’s rear.

Before delivering the order, the referee also referenced an episode in which a Metro Codes department inspector was apparently locked inside The Dog Spot while trying to assess the building. Baker has rejected such accusations.

“I just cannot overlook the flagrancy of which the codes inspector was treated, and the flagrancy of which you ... still continue to violate a court order,” Todd said. “I just don’t see any way around it.”

Codes violations aren’t unusual.

What makes The Dog Spot case stand out is its focus on the Gallatin Road SP, the zoning regulations Baker has violated. Since its inception in 2007, developers and other have scoffed at the new East Nashville zoning requirements for making the planning process too difficult to navigate. They say the SP has thwarted development.

“The SP makes no sense, it’s confusing,” Baker said Wednesday. “I tried to do it the right way. I tried to work with the [Metro] Planning Department, but I couldn’t get a straight answer of what was required of me.

“And so I pay the consequences,” he said.

18 Comments on this post:

By: Shadow63 on 11/30/11 at 8:32

"I tried to work with the [Metro] Planning Department, but I couldn’t get a straight answer of what was required of me".

What's new?

By: Loner on 12/1/11 at 8:08

Criminal justice has gone to the dogs, in Nashville TN.

Curry Todd got away with DWI with a loaded handgun on his front seat...no jail time for that....trying to make an honest buck, however can land a man in jail, in Nashville.

Drunken gunners are tolerated....small time entrepreneurs, however, face jail time. That's nutsy stuff.

By: Budd43 on 12/1/11 at 11:05

Budd43 I hope this man did not think he was going to bond out like the rest of Mayor Crime Deans criminal's do daily. If you try to do the correct thing and follow the permit board forget it. Codes change daily and interpretation is left up to the inspector and $$ changing hands. Watch channel 3 Planning Commission some time and you will see real clowns in action change codes unlawfully.

By: JohnGalt on 12/1/11 at 12:36

Planning Department = Huge bureaucracy requiring continued kowtowing.

By: dartow on 12/1/11 at 1:24

Where is the judgement in being a judge? Criminals walk our streets but a small business owner goes to jail for what amounts to not paying off the codes inspector or not paying enough.

Back to basics & common sense!!!

By: cityjvtao on 12/1/11 at 3:40

I will admit I don't know the case specifics - but 5 days in Jail. Really? How can this be justified?

By: sidneyames on 12/2/11 at 7:51

And EXACTLY what purpose does 5 days in jail serve? I'm really amazed and amused.

By: global_citizen on 12/2/11 at 8:11

This is unacceptable. I'd like to hear Mayor Dean weigh in on this. I'm in favor of some reasonable zoning regulations, but jailing this business owner for five days is NOT reasonable. It's akin to a police state. This is how things are done in Zimbabwe, not in Nashville.

By: BenDover on 12/2/11 at 8:17

JAIL TIME??? WTF?

By: yogiman on 12/2/11 at 8:19

The man was violating a city code. OK. Maybe a "tour" through the jail would teach him a lesson, but 5 days for violating a business code? Giveim a break, "guvmunt".

By: yogiman on 12/2/11 at 8:21

I can agree with being amazed, sidneyjames, but surely not amused under these circumstances.

By: yogiman on 12/2/11 at 8:22

Sorry, sidneyames, too many letters in your name. Intent not attended.

By: girliegirl on 12/2/11 at 8:24

Sidney, there's soooooooo much more to this story, but I am not allowed to post it. I'll try to call you today, give you the update. It's eyebrow-raising, to say the least. And Metro is NOT at fault, by a long shot, from the information I dug up. There are some scary people living here, and some of them refuse to follow the rules that we all abide by, mainly because they think they're above the law.

By: yogiman on 12/2/11 at 9:05

There's too many people "above the law" in our nation today, girliegirl. And that includes the national level.

By: delltechkid on 12/2/11 at 1:41

I dont think the jail time is for the codes violation. The jail time is because the judge told him to shut down the business before and he didn't do it. So now he's in contempt of a court order. He charged him with criminal contempt so he could send him to jail as opposed to civil contempt which meant the business would be closed immediately and all of the employees would be without a job tomorrow.

By: Radix on 12/4/11 at 10:58

DellTechKid,

Thank you. To repeat, the jail time is NOT for codes violations, (which negates most of the commenters here, especially Loner), it is for Contempt of Court.

By: SRJ on 12/5/11 at 10:32

The problem here is the SP overlay, period. Existing structures, on that section of Gallatin Rd, will never meet the SP overlay requirements. And yes....the jail time is a result of Contempt of Court Violations, however, that charge stems from the codes violations. It"s all relative. So, Mr. Baker will serve 5 days in jail. Meanwhile, hardened criminals are walking the streets of Nashville, due to lack of available jail cells.

By: SRJ on 12/5/11 at 10:32

The problem here is the SP overlay, period. Existing structures, on that section of Gallatin Rd, will never meet the SP overlay requirements. And yes....the jail time is a result of Contempt of Court Violations, however, that charge stems from the codes violations. It"s all relative. So, Mr. Baker will serve 5 days in jail. Meanwhile, hardened criminals are walking the streets of Nashville, due to lack of available jail cells.