A town man who keeps three leopards and two tigers on his property and exhibits them to the public is appealing a Zoning Board of Appeals decision that classifies his collection as a home business.
Steven Salton filed an Article 78 proceeding against the town of Mayfield ZBA in state Supreme Court of Fulton County on Thursday, according to court records.
He is asking a panel of administrative law judges to overturn the ZBA’s 4-0 decision of Oct. 15 supporting a town code enforcement officer’s determination that he is operating 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.
Salton and his attorney, Paul Wollman, were not available for comment Monday. However, Wollman, in recorded comments made during a public hearing before the ZBA last year, said Salton’s collection is a hobby and does not constitute a business, and that Salton had his collection in place prior to the town’s adoption of the home business zoning code in 2005.
Wollman also said the town cannot tell Salton how many animals he can have and that the USDA and state control what Salton is doing with his animals. He said the zoning law says nothing about keeping wild animals, that there have been no injuries involving the animals and that the site is inspected annually.
Mayfield Supervisor Richard Argotsinger said the ZBA decision means Salton has to appear before the town Planning Board with a site plan review for his home occupation. “They would look at parking, lighting, signage and they would approve or disapprove the plan,” he said.
Argotsinger said he believes Salton filed the Article 78 with the presumption the Planning Board would reject his site plan and that rejection would require he dispose of the exotic animals. “The town’s position is that he comply with the zoning code,” he said.
Salton has kept exotic animals on his property going back to 2005, when he purchased a baby Siberian tiger from a private breeder. Since then, his collection has grown to a total of 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 on Route 30. Salton shows the animals by appointment. Argotsinger said Salton charges an entrance fee, though Wollman denied that.