June 24, 2008

Chelmsford Animal Hospital Hoping to Expand Its Nest

By Rita Savard, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Jun. 24--CHELMSFORD -- Over the years, they've patched up hundreds of local patients that bark, hop and fly.

Now the veterinarians at Chelmsford Animal Hospital hope to continue caring for man's best friends at a new 10,000-square-foot facility.

Tomorrow night, the Planning Board is expected to vote on whether to approve a building design for a larger, state-of-the-art animal hospital at 11 Fletcher St. (The board will also meet again with the developers who want to raze Skip's Restaurant and build a strip mall in its place.)

Patient influx has increased at the animal hospital over the years, making the current 1,100-square-foot facility a tight squeeze for the three veterinarians who work there, said hospital co-owner Fred Ramseyer.

"We still want to keep the homey feeling that people love about coming to a smaller office," Ramseyer said.

Plans for a new facility would increase the square-footage of the office from 1,100 to about 5,000 square feet. The basement would include another 5,000 square feet, Ramseyer said.

The layout would increase the hospital's exam rooms from two to four, allow for a larger digital X-ray room, and add a grievance room.

If the Planning Board approves the design, construction would begin in the fall behind the existing facility. When the new structure is ready, the old animal hospital will be torn down to make way for the hospital's new parking lot.

"Our whole goal is to make people comfortable and give

them the best quality of time they can have with their pets," said Ramseyer, who isn't a veterinarian but is married to one.

Ramseyer's wife, Dr. Patricia Berchtold, works at the clinic. Husband-and-wife veterinarians Patricia Hart and Mark Englehardt are co-owners and full-time hospital staff.

For years, the staff at Chelmsford Animal Hospital have been animal-control officer Erik Merrill's on-call veterinarians.

"We've always been a tight-knit family, we're just expanding to accommodate the needs of our patients, an extended family that continues to grow," Merrill said.

Also appearing before the Planning Board tomorrow, representatives for Ryan Development will continue talks about the developer's plan to tear down Skip's Restaurant at 116 Chelmsford St., and build a strip mall.

The proposed 10,950-square-foot structure would hold a new restaurant, bank, coffee shop and another bay for a retail establishment. The blueprint also includes two drive-through windows at the bank, and a third for the coffee shop.

Planning Board Chairwoman Pamela Armstrong said there are concerns with traffic and parking that still need to be ironed out. The Planning Board had asked the developer to bring back a more comprehensive traffic study, looking at Chelmsford Street from the Interstate-495 ramps through to Alpine Lane.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m., at Town Offices, 50 Billerica Road.


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