Mayfield man likely to lose big cats after court ruling
MAYFIELD A Mayfield man will likely have to remove three leopards and two tigers he keeps and exhibits on his property in the town after losing a court case.
A state Supreme Court judge in Fulton County this week dismissed a challenge by Steven A. Salton, of 3420 Route 30, to a town Zoning Board of Appeals decision that said he must obtain a permit from the town Planning Board to operate his business, which he calls “Natasha's Helping Hand.”
The town said Salton’s business wasn’t permitted under the town’s comprehensive plan, nor was it allowed under local zoning laws.
Salton can appeal Judge Richard Aulisi’s decision, but Aulisi said the ZBA did not act illegally or arbitrarily nor did it abuse its discretion in upholding the Planning Board’s decision, said Town Attorney Carm Greco. These are the requisities to set aside a zoning board’s decsion, he said.
Still, Salton has 30 days in which to appeal. If he does not appeal, the town will issue a cease and desist order, requiring him to remove the exotic animals from his property. Salton was not available for comment today.
Salton filed the Article 78 proceeding in February, asking the court to overturn the ZBA’s 4-0 decision on Oct. 15 supporting a town code enforcement officer’s determination that he operated a business out of his home.
In his court filing, Salton said the town’s definition of home occupation does not apply to his collection of exotic animals. He said the ZBA’s decision “constitutes an abuse of discretion and creates practical difficulties and unnecessary hardship and severe economic loss” to him.
Aulisi said the town demonstrated Salton was operating a business in his home, producing business cards with fees listed on them and other proof.
While Aulisi considered his decision, he granted Salton time to apply for a permit with the Planning Board to operate his business. The Planning Board denied his application Nov. 1, saying he lived in a residential district not zoned for business.
Greco said the court case has alerted the town of a need to tighten its zoning laws. He said he is in the process of writing new codes that will prohibit the exhibition of exotic or dangerous animals. The draft will be presented to the Town Board when it is completed.
Salton has kept exotic animals on his property dating back to 2005, when he purchased a baby Siberian tiger from a private breeder. Since then, his collection has grown to the five big cats .
He is licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The licenses require he exhibit the animals for educational purposes, as opposed to keeping the animals as pets, on his 11-acre property. Salton shows the animals by appointment.