'We have been working on this idea for more than a year, and we've gotten much neighborhood support,' said Leonard Pollara, a consultant to the project. 'It's a philanthropic effort.' (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
The launching of a goat farm in an empty city block got a head butt from Detroit officials Friday afternoon, when they ordered the venture shut down a day after 18 goats arrived.
The founder of a $6 billion hedge fund with a Leelanau County farm is behind the effort in which goats would be used to clear tall weeds and other vegetation in the empty blocks of the Brightmoor neighborhood. The goats came from Idyll Farms, in Northport, which is owned by Mark Spitznagel, president of Miami-based Universa Investments.
On Thursday, the goats were set up on a block near Schoolcraft, where houses have long disappeared.
“We have been working on this idea for more than a year, and we’ve gotten much neighborhood support,” said Leonard Pollara, a consultant to the project. “It’s a philanthropic effort.”
Pollara said a neighborhood resident was being trained as a goatherd.
But the project never received city permission. Local ordinances are “gray” when it comes to allowing the animals, Pollara said.
Inspectors from Detroit’s animal control department saw only black and white. City ordinance 6-1-3 bans farm and wild animals. Officials showed up Friday afternoon and ordered Pollara to remove the animals. The goats’ owner also may be fined.
As a result of the city’s order, the goats, some only weeks old, will be taken to market in matter of days, he said. Proceeds from their sale will go to nonprofits in the neighborhood.
On Friday afternoon, a steady stream of residents stopped and expressed support for the goat farm.
Brightmoor is home to many programs started by residents to combat blocks of abandoned land. There is a garden run by youth who sell their products at local farmers markets. Abandoned houses have been decorated with colorful paint and artwork. There are several community gardens and parks maintained by volunteers.
The block where the goats are being kept is in the middle of the street where many of the weeds were taller than the sole abandoned house.
“This is the kind of great idea this neighborhood needs,” said resident Alexis Hendricks, who stopped by the goat farm Friday.
“Look around here; this is more like farmland than city,” she said, referring to the many empty blocks. “There’s too many places full of weeds and junk. Let’s turn it into something positive.”
The fight is not over. Pollara said plans outlined by Detroit Future City, a long-term effort to revive the city, recommend zoning for such things as small farms in blighted areas. Last year, city Councilman James Tate, who represents Brightmoor, introduced a proposal for allowing sheep and goats to trim grass on vacant lots, but it has not become law.
“The city has designated areas for these type of projects, but the ordinances have not yet been adjusted to fit those plans,” Pollara said.