Supervisors voted 2-1 on Thursday to approve a conditional use permit for Living Treasures Safari Resort to build along Route 258 in Liberty Township - but with 25 reservations.
The supervisors "appreciate your input," said solicitor Tim McNickle, who led the meeting at the township building.
"I want to assure you that the supervisors gave this matter some serious thought," he added. The supervisors' decision came on the heels of a two-day conditional use hearing last week at Grove City High School.
The animal park plans include 400 to 500 animals for viewing by tour bus on 140-plus acres of land, including secured open spaces and indoor exhibits.
Businessman Adam Guiher owns a 20-acre Living Treasures in Slippery Rock Township, Lawrence County, which he acquired and updated from his father in 2005. Guiher grew up in the business, which opened in 1992.
Guiher added future phases to the new Living Treasures plan - including a water park and ropes course - which fit within the property's conditional use, as long as the site plans for those phases are submitted and approved by governing bodies, McNickle said after the meeting.
But another phase in the plan, called "future lodging area," was not approved by the supervisors. The rustic lodging would have had a viewing area to allow guests to see exotic animals up close. McNickle stated after the meeting that the supervisors didn't believe lodging "was an appropriate conditional use" for the property.
Other conditions involved certain operating hours, lighting, parking spaces, distances between neighbors, buffer strips, fencing, screening and vegetation, according to a written decision. Permits, licenses, zoning and regulations of all agencies involved in the building process must be met, it added.
Animals making sounds higher than 90 decibels from 50 feet away must be 300 feet away from any property line and 600 feet from any structure on an adjoining property, it said.
Guiher and his wife reside on the property at Living Treasures in Lawrence County; however, they would move to a home at the proposed business in Liberty. The conditional use stipulates that the residency must be subdivided from the business.
The supervisors will adopt formal written findings of fact, conclusions and opinions on its decision before Dec. 5, McNickle said. The day following the adoption, a copy will be mailed to Guiher and those who gave testimony at last week's hearings. They, as well as property owners opposed to the development, may then file appeals to the county court within 30 days, he added.
On Thursday, the township building was filled with individuals eager to hear the supervisors' decision.
Ron Churchill said he and other Liberty residents living near the proposed animal park "are not happy with the decision."
After receiving the supervisors' findings, opinions and conclusions in December, they will meet "to get our ducks in a row" for an appeal to county court, Churchill noted.
The residents are primarily concerned about exotic animals transmitting exotic diseases.
"Our main concern is the water," said Kimberly Johnson, who got extremely sick from excessive thallium and arsenic found in her water, which the state Department of Environmental Protection reported in 1999.
"It's very scary when they're messing with your water," Johnson said, "and it's something you have to have."
The proposed animal park contains wetlands.
Guiher and his wife, Tanis Guiher, attended the meeting and were pleased with the supervisors' approval of the conditional use permit. However, they will be discussing options with their attorney over the lodging restriction.
"There's a possibility we'll appeal it," Guiher said. "It fits our business plan. It doesn't mean it's completely necessary, but we believe the way the zoning is written, it should be allowed. We're going to pursue what we believe our rights are."
Published Nov. 15, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.