Government

Cedar Rapids wildlife rehabilitator Amber Oldfield looks to move to comply with city code

Amber Oldfield and city agree she'll be in compliance by end of 2020

Amber Oldfield stands July 22 in the wildlife rehabilitation area she has built in the backyard of her northeast Cedar Rapids home. She has lived in this home for 10 years and is a state licensed wildlife rehabilitator. But her operation is in violation of city zoning rules for the single-family neighborhood. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Amber Oldfield stands July 22 in the wildlife rehabilitation area she has built in the backyard of her northeast Cedar Rapids home. She has lived in this home for 10 years and is a state licensed wildlife rehabilitator. But her operation is in violation of city zoning rules for the single-family neighborhood. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — City officials have agreed to an extended timeline for moving sought by a Cedar Rapids woman who’s in violation of city code for rehabilitating wildlife at her home.

The state has certified Amber Oldfield to care for injured or abandoned wildlife, but the city does not allow the practice in her single-family home neighborhood.

“The city is putting me in a position to close or move, so my only choice is to move,” Oldfield said. “They wanted a timeline. I told them my goal is to be done with all of this by end of 2020.”

Oldfield and the city recently met to discuss and review her situation. City officials had made a point to note that while they expected Oldfield to correct the violation, they would not rush her.

“We did receive information from Amber and recently had the chance to review it,” Sandi Fowler, deputy city manager, said in an email. “We’re comfortable with the steps she’s outlined, and will continue to actively work with her throughout the process. We appreciate her efforts and are pleased with how we’re working together.”

Oldfield, one of two certified wildlife rehabilitators in Cedar Rapids, cares for about 300 fox, duck, beaver, geese, raccoons and other critters a year from her modest home. She’s never had a complaint filed against her, but city officials learned of the practice while in the neighborhood on another matter and began enforcing the zoning code last year.

Oldfield said she considered applying for a zoning variance to make an exception so she could continue her practice at her current location in the northeast quadrant. But she was advised against it because it was not likely to be approved.

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Cedar Rapids has a few zones, including certain industrial and commercial areas, where Oldfield would be allowed to operate. She also could move into an unincorporated area. She said someone had offered her land in Troy Mills, but it did not have access to water, which is needed for the animals, and she also would need to build a place for her to stay.

Since news spread of Oldfield’s situation, some community members have attempted to rally to her support.

On Nextdoor, a neighborhood-based social media platform, community members have volunteered to help spread flyers for a fundraiser and others have offered donations for a silent auction. Others offered to help work on her home to get it ready to sell.

“People come out in droves when you are talking about animals,” said Julie Hamilton, who didn’t know Oldfield until recently but has been among those trying to help. “People over there don’t want her to leave.”

Oldfield and her supporters are putting together a fundraiser from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 27 at Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Road SE.

The event will include a silent auction. Those interested in making a donation or providing an item for the silent auction by Oct, 14 can contact LinnCountyWildlifeRehab@gmail.com.

“I can’t finance anything where they are showing me I can go to,” Oldfield said. “Fundraising is where I said I can try and see where it goes, and see if it makes it doable.”

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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