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Owner of exotic cats gets a reprieve

Thursday, May 08, 2014 - Updated: 8:45 AM

By CAROLINE MURRAY

caroline.murray@recordernews.com

MAYFIELD -- The town may have won a battle against exotic cat owner Steve Salton in appellate court, but the war to remove three tigers and two leopards from his Route 30 residence is not over yet.

Town attorney Carmel Greco said Supreme Court Judge Richard T. Aulisi HAS granted Salton an extended stay on the town's cease and desist order to remove the exotic cats from his home.

Greco said Salton has until June 16, or until further court action, to relinquish the cats.

Aulisi extended the stay based on a pending Article 78 lawsuit Salton filed against the town's zoning board of appeals last year.

Salton filed the lawsuit last year, after he submitted a variance application to officially grant him an exception to a zoning ordinance. The board denied the application.

"He is asking that the harboring of these wild animals be permitted in a residential zone," Greco said.

Salton lives in a R-1 residential district and claims the board never gave consideration to the application.

The lawsuit was put on hold while Salton and his attorney Christian J. Soller appealed a prior Supreme Court decision that said his exotic cat exhibit, Natasha's Helping Hand, requires a permit from the Mayfield town planning board in order to operate on his property.

Salton filed that lawsuit in 2011, arguing his operation was not a business, and was grandfathered in before the 2005 zoning law.

The New York State Appellate Division's Third Department upheld the Supreme Court decision in April, deeming his operation was indeed a business, and not grandfathered in before the new zoning law.

Greco said if the appellate court ruled in Salton's favor, the current lawsuit would have been a moot point.

"This is something he filed last year, but it was kept in the background because we had the appeal pending," Greco said. "If the appeal obviously was decided in Salton's favor, that Article 78 would not have been necessary," Greco said.

But the appellate judges ruled in the town's favor, and so, the cat fight continues.

Aulisi originally granted a stay on the cease and desist order until the appellate court ruled.

The stay was supposed to expire today, or 30 days after the decision was finalized in appellate court.

However, the Article 78 proceeding allowed Aulisi to grant Salton an extension.

"Otherwise the town would have been able to go in and execute on the cease and desist order," Greco said.

Greco said Aulisi is scheduled to hear the case June 6 in Fulton County Supreme Court.

Town code enforcement officer Michael Stewart declined to comment about the proceeding.

Stewart said the town is not currently working on any laws or regulations regarding exotic pets in residential neighborhoods.

Calls to Salton and Soller were not returned.

     

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