Has 15 Cannon Rd., the building that formerly housed the ABC (A Better Chance of Wilton) House, finally found its next tenant? GOOD Morning Wilton has learned that Bone and Bark Inn, a family-owned doggy daycare, boarding, and fostering facility, has applied for a special permit to operate at the 2.22 acre property, including a plan for adaptive reuse of the historic structure. This is the third new use floated for the property since last summer.

History of the Property

In 1996, the ABC House opened its Wilton boys’ residence at 15 Cannon Rd. The national non-profit organization, whose mission is to increase access to high-quality education for students of color, continued to operate on the site until 2020, when it made the difficult decision to close the boys’ residential program.

The property was then sold to Cannon House, LLC which also owns the adjacent property located at 436 Danbury Road, where Dr. James Aris has a dental practice. Pamela Aris is president of Cannon House, LLC.

In August, private school Cajal Academy, which serves children who have high cognitive profiles alongside learning, social-emotional or neurophysiological differences, filed for a special permit to operate on the site. Town Planner Michael Wrinn called the application, “one of the most thorough” he’d ever seen. However, just hours before its first scheduled hearing with the Planning & Zoning Commission, the school withdrew its application citing “circumstances beyond our control.”

Just one month later, Superintendent Kevin Smith announced to the Board of Education (BOE) that the Genesis program, which serves Wilton students in grades 7-12 in an alternative learning environment, was pursuing a new home at 15 Cannon Rd. after several years leasing space from the Trackside Teen Center program. But then, during the Dec. 2 BOE meeting, Smith announced unexpectedly that lease terms and operational challenges at the Trackside site had been resolved and Genesis would be staying put — leaving 15 Cannon Rd. once again without a tenant.

Plans for the Site

Founded by Wilton residents Erasmo “Raz” and Maria Farinas in 2018, Bone and Bark operates an alternative boarding and daycare facility for dogs that offers an at-home setting rather than a typical crate-based environment. The Farinases also foster dogs as part of SNARR Northeast (Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation), which takes dogs from high-kill shelters and rehabilitates, trains, and supports the animals while they await adoption. Maria Farinas is the behavioral manager for SNARR Northeast.

Reached by GMW, she described the original inspiration for Bone and Bark Inn.

“My crazy idea had always been to open this type of facility that is almost a bed-and-breakfast for dogs. We’re firm believers that old-school kennels don’t work for many dogs. We offer a lot of outdoor space so they’re not in kennels all day. We have pools for them outside and agility and enrichment equipment in the runs,” Maria Farinas said.

She explained that one reason for the move is that Bone and Bark has more than doubled its business since the pandemic began. “Everyone has a dog now!” she said. They currently have five employees, with some staff remaining on-site overnight to help with the animals.

After several years operating at their current site (525 Danbury Rd. less than one mile up Rte. 7 from 15 Cannon Rd.) the Farinases hoped to buy the property but were unable to proceed due to ownership requirements with the other property on the site. They began eyeing the former ABC House as soon as it came on the market as a rental opportunity.

The application submitted to P&Z on behalf of the Farinases states that the property “offers the ideal facility for our program ‘as is’. Thus, we do not anticipate making any changes, improvements, construction, or alterations to either the interior or exterior of the building, or to the site other than to add dog runs, which by design are not permanent structures and will avoid the wetlands.”

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The current structure, a 6,000-square-foot home with six bedrooms and three bathrooms, will be outfitted with impervious (waterproof) flooring and furnished in a dog-inspired bed-and-breakfast style with different themes for each room. The bathroom will remain mostly unchanged, with two of the existing shower stalls being combined for a grooming station.

As part of the application, the Farinases submitted a traffic study by Michael Galante at Hardesty & Hanover, LLC that found that Bone and Bark relocating to the site “will result in an insignificant impact to Cannon Rd. and the Danbury Rd. signalized intersection.” A surveyor was also engaged to study the wetlands on the property and advise on setback and mitigation efforts.

Looking Ahead

Property owner Pamela Aris told GMW she applauded the Farinases’ plans for the property. “I look forward to welcoming them and their premier facility.”

Maria Farinas echoed her excitement. “We are longtime Wilton residents and we wanted to stay in Wilton,” she said. “We love the town and we feel really fortunate that we’ve been able to open and grow a business here as a family. We’re really looking forward to this next chapter.”

The project is expected to be introduced at the Feb. 28 meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission. As part of the review process, input from the Architectural Review Board and Inland Wetlands Commission is also expected, ahead of a final decision by P&Z.

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