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Cows in Cuyahoga Falls?
That is a question Mike Lynch often hears when he tells people he has a hobby farm in the northwest part of the city where he raises a handful of beef cattle.
City Council hosted a public hearing Feb. 11 prior to considering approving legislation to approve Lynch's application to place his 20 acres at 643 and 653 W. Steels Corners Road into an agricultural district. The city's planning director, Fred Guerra, the only person to address Council during the hearing, spoke in favor of the action.
Approving the application would not affect the city's zoning code, Guerra said. "Mr. Lynch wants to do something that is allowable in his district [RR rural residential]," he said. "Mr. Lynch has five cows that graze on his property." The city, Guerra said, wants to encourage more agricultural uses in the Northampton area, where Lynch lives. The township of Northampton and the city of Cuyahoga Falls merged in 1986.
Following the public hearing, Council's planning and zoning committee met in special session to discuss Lynch's application. Lynch told the committee and the rest of Council his application is a renewal of one he made five years ago. A renewal application had to be filed during the months of January or February of this year, he said, adding that he attempted to renew it with the county and was told he had to seek approval from the city.
Lynch said having this paperwork filed is important if someone new to his neighborhood questions the presence of the farm.
"This protects me from unwarranted complaints like smell or noise," he said. "I understand I'm the only one in the neighborhood. People are like, 'Cows in Cuyahoga Falls?'"
Lynch said he moved to Cuyahoga Falls from Portage County in 2008 when his sister died and he became trustee of her estate. He said his sister had a horse, and although he didn't keep it, he wanted to keep up the rural status of the land. "All the neighbors are excited about seeing cows in their backyard," he said, adding one of his neighbors has chickens and a rooster.
Councilman Terry Mader (R-8), who represents Lynch's ward, said he was under the impression farming in the Northampton area is "grandfathered in." The city's law director, Paul Janis, said the city is committed to preserving the area's "rural character," but there is nothing in the merger agreement that supercedes the city's zoning ordinance.
Members of Council indicated they've never been approached by a resident who wanted to stay rural.
"This is the first time we've seen it on this body," said Councilman Jerry James (D-7). "I don't see a problem with it. It's a rural area anyway."