WILDWOOD • Pebbles the Llama and her alpaca pals Brook and baby Anna Bandana showed up outside Wildwood City Hall on Monday night with some two-footed friends who want to make sure that they can keep on living the bucolic life in the middle of the woods and pastures of Rockwoods Reservation.
On Dec. 1, their owner Julie Wier, who has 15 llamas and alpacas, was startled to receive a letter from the city that said Pebbles and her friends had to go by Dec. 16.
“I have never felt this unwelcome any other place,” said Wier, who until July had lived with her family in unincorporated St. Clair County for 32 years. When she got the letter, Wier recalls, “I cried like a baby because these babies are my life.”
Wier figured that a nature preserve, in a conservation area, was the perfect home for all her critters.
“For God’s sake, it’s a nature preserve,” Wier said. “These animals belong in nature.”
It’s also the perfect location for Wier and her husband, just four miles from four of their grandchildren. The Wiers had been living about 40 miles away.
The llamas’ story has become a cause celebre for the Wiers, their friends and neighbors who want to keep the wild in Wildwood. They have been calling City Hall and writing letters, and on Monday night some folks joined the animals, Wier and her son Ben outside City Hall.
Wier and her four-footed friends already have the support of the city Planning Department and the city Planning and Zoning Commission, said Joe Vujnich, city planning director. Beyond that, Vujnich is hoping to work out a way to allow the animals that’s acceptable to the City Council, which sent back the planning commission’s recommendation that favored the couple for reconsideration.
“The direction the City Council provided to the planning and zoning commission was to try to figure out a way to allow the llamas but to limit its application to Mrs. Wier’s property or the fewest properties as possible,” Vujnich said.
Wier and her husband, Jack, are renting their property with a option to buy the 4.2. acres.
Julie Wier said that she and the property owner had called to clear the move to Rockwoods and said they were told by a city employee that it would OK.
Vujnich said that the family could stay while the dispute over their animals is resolved.
The solution proposed by planners was to change the zoning ordinance so that llamas would be allowed on property zoned three-acres nonurban, which is the zoning of the Wiers’ property. Horses are already allowed in that zoning category.
Present ordinances only allow llamas on five-acre lots.
Vujnich said he believed the commission’s recommendation also had a “safety net” because any subdivision’s indentures that were more restrictive would supersede it.
Mayor Tim Woerther said Monday the council wants to find a way to allow the Wiers’ llamas to stay but not to open the door for other farm animals on three acres.
He said the solution should keep it “narrowly defined.”
“The council requested additional consideration that would allow accommodation for (the Wiers’) llamas” but a different way than what the planning commission has recommended, the mayor said.
The issue will come up again at the planning commission’s meeting May 4.
There may be a menagerie.
Wier said she plans to ask her friends with llamas and alpacas to come to Wildwood to show their support.