A Newtown veterinarian is expanding his services with what he calls his “dream project” — a 17,767-square-foot, two-story building that will encompass a veterinary clinic, canine physical rehabilitation center, “luxury” canine and feline boarding, obedience training and a retail store, among other features.
“I always wanted a one-stop shop,” said Dr. Rakesh Vali, owner of the Mt. Pleasant Hospital for Animals at 119 Mt. Pleasant Road. “We’ve been expanding here since 2013, but there just isn’t enough room for everything we want to do.”
In addition, Vali said, Newtown and the surrounding area does not have a complex that offers what his new project, Pleasant Paws Pet Center, will. In addition to Pleasant Paws — a $3.2 million facility whose construction at 94 S. Main St. is scheduled to begin next month — will offer pet transportation, dog daycare, grooming services, including “self-bathing” stations, and boarding for birds and exotic pets.
While Spot On Veterinary Hospital & Hotel in Stamford specializes in what it calls “four-star” service for dogs and cats, and other practices provide an array of boarding, rehab services and the like, Vali said that Pleasant Paws will be the only such one-stop facility within 30 miles of Newtown.
“In addition to Newtown we also currently have a number of clients from Brookfield, Bethel and some from Danbury,” he said.
“But we believe the new place will not also draw more people from those places, but from the other end (of Newtown) as well, places like Monroe, Easton and Trumbull.”
Born in India, Vali joined Mt. Pleasant in 2003 as an associate to Dr. Brian Silverlieb, who founded the service in 1977. Vali took ownership of the practice in 2010 when Silverlieb was stricken with cancer; he died the following year.
Vali also owns Fieldstone Veterinary Clinic in New Fairfield, though he said he practices mainly in Newtown. The two practices posted about $3.25 million in combined sales last year, and Vali said he expects similar growth this year.
He stressed that Mt. Pleasant would remain in business. “There’s been a lot of concern about that (in the community), but we’re not going to move,” he said. “This will remain a center for veterinary issues, while (Pleasant Paws) will be centered on the other services.”
Vali is also principal of Prithvi Real Estate Management LLC, under which he applied for a zone change from R-1 (residential) to South Main Village Design District/Special Design District-5 (SMVDD/SDD-5) as well as a special zoning permit for the site development plan. Approvals were obtained in June, creating a 2.06-acre lot with South Main Street frontage and an adjacent 1.07-acre lot that includes a house. In May, the project received a wetlands/watercourses protection permit from the Inland Wetlands Commission in connection with the presence of a pond at the site.
Vali smilingly called the process “somewhat long, which is fairly typical when you’re dealing with a planning and zoning board.” Some nearby residents voiced concerns about increased traffic, while some Newtown Planning and Zoning members expressed apprehension over what could happen at the property should the veterinary service shutter; ultimately it was decided that future businesses there will be subject to the terms of a special zoning permit.
Vali said the property, which once housed a nursery, had been vacant for “about 20 years” before his Prithvi Real Estate bought it for $465,000.
Pleasant Paws will employ about 10 people, including two doctors, Vali said. Although winter weather has played havoc with construction projects in the past, he said he has been assured by Solli Engineering of Monroe and Claris Construction of Newtown that its scheduled April opening can be achieved.