Old Ash Road property

The Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board has approved a variance for a Butler County man to raise and breed animals includes zebras and antelopes at 318 Old Ash Road.

SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP – Members of the Springfield Township Zoning Hearing Board have approved a variance request for a man to raise and breed animals that are considered to be exotic or rare.

David Duffy, who lives in the Mars, Pa., area, plans to use property he owns at 318 Old Ash Road for conservation of animals including zebras, antelopes and camels.

“It’s been a lifelong passion and dream of mine,” he said.

Board members granted his request at a public hearing held Oct. 28 at the township building. The approval stipulates that Duffy will limit the animals to the ones he listed in his application.

The property covers about 83 acres. The front is zoned village-residential, and the back section zoned commercial.

Duffy will be using the rear part – about 35 to 40 acres – to house the animals, and he’ll be hiring someone to live on the property to help care for the animals around-the-clock.

Animals like zebras or camels are defined as “rare or exotic” according to the township ordinance that covers animals in the commercial zone, said Jeff Richardson, Springfield’s zoning officer.

Because Duffy won’t be tending to common household pets or livestock like cattle or sheep, he was required to apply for a variance.

Certain species have bounced back from near-extinction thanks to conservation efforts, Duffy said, adding he wants to be part of that – raising and breeding the animals and also selling them to like-minded breeders and places like the Keystone Safari animal park in Liberty Township.

The property on Old Ash Road has been vacant for some time, and he spent about $20,000 to clear the land.

He’ll also be fixing up the house that sits on the property, which he bought in fall 2018. The area that is zoned village-residential is mostly fields and will not be used, apart from the house.

This will not be his primary source of income, but he will be there on a regular basis, Duffy said.

James Cratty, zoning board chair, asked if Duffy would ever want to raise animals that would be considered predators.

That requires different licensing and permits and is not something he wants to do, Duffy said.

He’d be willing to sign an agreement stating that he will never take on certain animals, he added.

Duffy will be installing a fence that’s 8 to 10 feet tall, and the property will be double-gated so that animals cannot get out.

The gates are also meant to keep the public out, and there will be signs posted plus security cameras, he said.

He’ll also have to follow requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the game commission, especially if he ships or sells the animals.

When he has everything up and running, he’ll have 30 animals at most from four or five species.

His animals will be relatively quiet, and they produce less waste than cows, Duffy said.

He’ll practice rotational grazing and use the animals’ waste as fertilizer.

The back part of the property is surrounded by woods, and the closest neighbors on that side of Old Ash Road are Buhl Community Water Co. and the Hovis distribution center.

A few residents have asked township officials about Duffy’s plans, but none of them were against it, said Shawn Swartz, the township’s office manager.

Duffy confirmed that he has the resources to buy equipment and materials. He noted that he grew up on a farm and has helped his brother raise white-tailed deer and elk.

He will secure a good veterinarian and continues to conduct research and network with other breeders.

Some of the animals will have a heated barn for cold weather, and Duffy won’t be adding much lighting.

James Nevant, the zoning board’s solicitor, asked whether the plans would change the character of the area.

It will not, and the tree line starts at the commercially-zoned part of the property, which will be hard to see from the road, Duffy said.

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