2010-08-07 / Front Page

Alpaca herd replaces salvage yard

by Scott Rawdon

BALTIMORE– Live alpaca will replace dead vehicles at a Liberty Township property. “It’s all over,” said Bremen resident Richard Estep, owner of 145 Baltimore-Somerset Rd. and Lancaster’s Estep’s Auto Service. Estep proposed creating a recycling salvage yard at the property, similar to U-Wrench It, a self-service used auto parts store familiar to Columbus residents. Liberty Township citizens created the East Side Neighborhood Group in opposition and the issue has spent years in litigation—until Monday, when Estep said he bought another salvage yard “outside of the county,” which can hold more than 1,000 junk vehicles. Estep wouldn’t give the specific location of the salvage yard other than to say it wasn’t in Fairfield County.

Instead, Estep will raise 10 head of alpaca at the 145 Balt i more -Somer set Roa d location. “They’re very easy to keep,” he said, and they adapt well to heat. He’s renovating a building on the property into stables and someone will live at the property to tend to the alpaca.

Estep said that in the end, the Liberty Township property wasn’t large enough to deal with all the legal hassles associated with trying to establish the salvage yard there, although he’s certain he would’ve prevailed in court. “We would’ve won,” he said, “but I really didn’t want to mess with it anyhow.” Regardless, Estep said the controversy surrounding the proposed salvage yard is finished. “It’s a done deal,” he said.

“I don’t have problem with it,” said Liberty Township Trustee Randy Kemmerer. Estep would need to be sure whatever he does complies with zoning, he said.

The news came as a surprise to Jim Reed, who represented the East Side Neighborhood Group. “This is brand new to me,” he said, although with all the twists and turns this issue has taken since it began in 2006, “nothing surprises me.” He said the last he know of the situation, Estep, East Side Neighborhood Group representatives and respective lawyers had a conference call to discuss it, and the legal process was at a standstill. He understood the case was to be remanded to the township for its ruling.

Reed said personally he would be “tickled to death” to see something at the property instead of a salvage yard. But, he didn’t know enough about alpaca farming to venture any opinions for or against Estep’s plans, nor did he wish to speak for any other members for the East Side Neighborhood Group. Reed said two-dozen families were ready to maintain opposition to the salvage yard if Estep continued to pursue it.

Fairfield County Senior Plan ner James Mako said Estep’s property is zoned for rural residential use. He assumes raising alpaca would be considered agricultural use, which falls under rural residential zoning. However, he was clear that the township trustees make the final call.

Liberty Township Zoning Inspector Ruth Crutcher said that raising animals is a permitted use under rural residential zoning.

Trustee Ivan Ety said he has no objections to alpaca, and even if he did, it wouldn’t matter because the use is permitted. “It’s exempt from zoning,” he said, “end of story.”

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