STOW — Facing an Oct. 1 deadline to comply with the city’s zoning code, a Stow resident is trying to rehome his animals —a small herd of alpacas.
Scott Westberg owns the variously colored alpacas — Spud, Daphne, Loretta and Scooby — at 1299 Goldfinch Trail.
While Stow Planning Director Rob Kurtz told the Stow Sentry in August that he was not aware of anything in the zoning code which specifically prohibits the keeping of alpacas in the city, Kurtz told the newspaper on Sept. 5, "After additional review of the code, it is my position that keeping alpacas is an agricultural activity and not permitted in the R-1 Residential district."
He is currently working with the alpaca property owner, who has been cooperative, to resolve the issue. In an Aug. 27 letter to Westberg, Kurtz directed him to bring his property into compliance by Oct. 1 and to address an ongoing problem with "offensive odors" emanating from it.
Westberg contends there is nothing in the Stow city ordinances or zoning that precludes him from having alpacas as pets. "However, we do not want to cause people stress or anxiety …," Westberg says, "so we have been trying to find them a new home."
City Council recently heard about complaints from a neighbor that Westberg has created a nuisance situation with his choice of pet and the smells that result from the animals.
Westberg told the Stow Sentry, "Embarrassingly, I did get busy at work and allowed too many days to go by without picking up after my pets in the back yard, so I did get a letter (from the city regarding the odor). I immediately put a plan in place to have my pets picked up after on a daily basis and emailed Rob to apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused him or anyone. I take pride in the way I take care of my family, property, employees and pets and felt horrible I dropped the ball on that one."
Having addressed the odor problem cited in the July 19 letter from the city, Westberg says he thought the alpacas could continue enjoying the property he moved into in March. Then he received a subsequent letter from Kurtz dated Aug. 29 raising the agricultural use issue.
"Google defines agriculture as ‘the science or practice of farming, including cultivation of the soil for the growing of crops and the rearing of animals to provide food, wool, and other products,’" Westberg says. "Being these are pets and we are not raising them to provide any products, they are actually not considered agriculture."
"It was never our intention to offend [our neighbors] or the city of Stow zoning," Westberg said. "So after many tears, thought and discussion with our family, we have decided to try to find our pets a new home. There is nothing in any city ordinance that says we cannot keep them, but we also want to be good Stow citizens and not cause anyone any problems."
Reporter Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, firstname.lastname@example.org or @EllinWalsh_RPC.